MEDFORD - The 2015 fall semester was another successful run for Tufts University Athletics. The Jumbo Football team returned to the top of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) standings and Women's Cross Country enjoyed the program's best season in 30 years. Those were among many fall highlights.
Which was the top achievement of the fall semester? Read on ...
10. Women’s Sailing Improvement
Historically one of Tufts' top programs - including six Intercollegiate Sailing Association national titles - Women's Sailing had fallen out of the national rankings in recent years. The Jumbos returned to the top 10 during the fall season. Most impressively, they were second at Harvard University's Mrs. Hurst Bowl on October 24-25. Perhaps the best is yet to come from this improving squad when their 2015-16 season resumes in March.
9. #GivingTuesday Success
The generosity shown by supporters of Jumbo Athletics was one of the highlights of #GivingTuesday on December 1 at Tufts. Overall online giving to Athletics totaled 693 donors, representing 36.8 percent of the university-wide total, and $86,296 in gifts. This represents an increase of 574 total donors to Athletics, a 20.4 percent increase in Athletics donors of the university-wide total, and an 83 percent increase in our total gifts to Athletics over #GivingTuesday in 2014.
8. More Academic All-NESCAC Honorees
For the fall sports season, 77 Jumbo student-athletes earned Academic All-NESCAC honors. That's an increase of almost 25 percent over last year's amount of 62 Jumbos who received the recognition. NESCAC All-Academic honors are awarded to varsity letter-winners who have reached sophomore academic standing with a grade point average of 3.35 and above.
7. New Coaches Join Jumbo Family
New Director of Athletics John Morris, who started at Tufts in June, was busy overseeing the hiring of four new head coaches as Jumbo Athletics welcomed the most changes in a number of years. The fresh faces and voices joining the coaching staff were men's tennis head coach Karl Gregor, who was promoved from interim status, men's hockey head coach Pat Norton, women's fencing head coach Carolos Bruno, and men's cross country / track & field's Joel Williams.
6. Tim Nichols Posts Men's Cross Country's First All-American Finish Since 2011
Tim Nichols capped an excellent junior season by finishing 19th individually at the 2015 NCAA Div. III Men's Cross Country Championship. By placing among the top 35 with his 24:46.20 time over eight kilometers, Nichols earned All-American honors at the race held in Winnecone, Wisconsin on November 21. He became the first Jumbo harrier to post an All-American finish since 2011. Making their fifth straight appearance at Nationals and the program's 14th overall, the Jumbos placed 17th as a team.
5. Men’s Basketball Wins New England Big 4 Challenge on Buzzer-Beater
The Jumbos won the 7th Annual New England Big 4 Challenge in dramatic fashion as senior tri-captain Ryan Spadaford drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime to lift Tufts to an 83-80 victory over 11th-ranked Babson on December 6 at Salem State University. Sophomore Vincent Pace was named tournament MVP after scoring 25 points in the championship game and also in the tourney opener against the host Vikings on December 5. Tufts closed its first semester of action with a 6-2 record.
4. Men’s Soccer Scores Late Comeback Win at Montclair State in NCAA’s
Tufts was the 2014 NCAA Div. III Men's Soccer champion after becoming the first team to win six consecutive games away from home en route to the title. They continued their impressive road winning streak in NCAA's after receiving a berth in 2015. Following a 2-1 win over Salisbury in the first round, the Jumbos scored twice in the final seven minutes to take a 3-2 second-round victory at Montclair State on November 15. Playing in the NCAA's for the third time in the last four seasons, Tufts was eliminated in the third road at Kenyon on a goal with 20 seconds left in regulation.
3. Alumna Whitney Hardy Returns to Soccer Field After Life-Threatening Accident
The comeback story of 2015 was Tufts alumna and former women's soccer player Whitney Hardy overcoming a tramautic brain injury after she was hit by a car in February 2014. Dan Stebbins, a former football player at Tufts and Hardy's fiancé, was by her side the whole way. This fall, Hardy returned to the soccer field as an assistant coach for the Jumbos and Stebbins joined the football team as an assistant, capping this story which is brimming with Jumbo spirit.
2. Women’s Cross Country 7th at NCAA’s for Best Finish Since 2006
The Jumbos enjoyed arguably the best season in team history, finished off by a seventh-place effort at the NCAA Div. III Women's Cross Country Championship Race in Winneconne, Wisconsin on November 21. The showing was the best by the Tufts women at Nationals since 2006. In the three weeks before NCAA's, the Jumbos sandwiched runner-up performances at the NESCAC and NCAA Regional Championships around a first-place finish at the ECAC meet.
1. Football Posts Best Season Since 2001 with 6-2 Record
Two years removed from a 31-game losing streak that was the longest in the nation at the time, Tufts Football continued a remarkable turn-around by finishing 6-2 for third place in NESCAC. The 2015 season was the best at Tufts since 2001. Among the victories was a 4-0 record on the road, including a 30-15 victory at Williams College that was the Tufts program's first in Williamstown since 1981. Tufts capped its 6-2 record with a 31-28 victory at home against Middlebury, beating the Panthers for the first time since 2001.
As always, it's hard to fill out a top 10 list without making some difficult decisions. Here are a few other teams and moments that were taken into consideration: