MEDFORD - The 16-2-4 Jumbos complete a historic season with their first national championship win in school history. Tufts defeated the Wheaton College (Ill.) Thunder in a game for the ages by a final of 3-2. Nate Majumder notched two scores for the Jumbos, while Peter Kramer and Gus Santos added one apiece. Rui Pinheiro and Jason Kayne both recorded one assist. During the latter part of their NCAA tournament run, the Jumbos, who were in their 4th NCAA tournament in school history, became giant slayers beating Messiah College, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Wheaton College (Ill.) which have a combined 97 NCAA tournament appearances and 14 national championships between them.
|Scott Greenwood made eight stops for the Jumbos and won Defensive Player of the Tournament|
During the first minutes of play, possession was even as the two sides warmed up to each other. Gus Santos received the ball on the left deep in the Jumbos' attacking third. He cut in and made a run past several defenders using crossovers and quick movements, but his low shot was easy for Wheaton senior goalkeeper Matt Paprocki.
Wheaton hit their stride first though and began attacking Tufts as the Thunder started winning the crucial midfield battle. Wheaton displayed intricate passing from the likes of junior forward Marshall Hollingsworth and senior forward Adam Blackman. Around the 30-minute mark, senior forward Jordan Golz volleyed a headed clear attempt by Matt Zinner. Golz's shot bounced fast towards goal, but it was right at Scott Greenwood who scooped it up.
The Thunder continued to press and a little under 30 minutes to play, Hollingsworth worked some magic near the top of the box and drew a foul. The free kick was tapped by Wheaton and senior defender Noah Anthony struck the ball on net, but Greenwood dove to his right for a miraculous deflection save. He was not out of trouble yet as the Jumbos' clear attempt went awry and the ball rolled to Jordan Golz whose shot on goal forced Greenwood to again make a sprawling save to his left this time.
Around the 25-minute mark, Santos and Anthony leaped for a cross in the Jumbos' offensive end and they knocked heads, resulting in their exit form the game. Anthony re-entered a few minutes later, while Santos stayed out for the remainder of the half.
While Wheaton carried play throughout the half and caused Tufts to struggle in their transition game, the Jumbos were able to capitalize on their opportunities. Maxime Hoppenot sprinted onto a long ball sent in deep and was fouled hard just outside the box on the left side, creating a free kick chance. Rui Pinheiro stood over it and sent in a beautiful service towards the near post that was mishandled by Paprocki and deflected off his leg before squeaking out to the middle of the goalmouth. Kramer came in hot from the weak side and blasted the ball into the open goal to put the Jumbos on the board first.
After the score, Wheaton pushed offensively, but Tufts held strong. The Thunder's decision to play rather than to boot the ball up the field gave the Jumbos' defense a chance to pack it in defensively, making it difficult for many of Wheaton's shots to get through. The Thunder had several opportunities out near the top of the box where their middies hovered during the first half, but were not able to convert.
In the 37th minute, Matt Zinner broke loose on the wing and started angling his run into the box using deft touches to beat multiple defenders when he was clipped from behind by Anthony. The referee awarded Tufts with a penalty kick and Majumder calmly lasered the ball into the net for the 2-0 Jumbo advantage.
Just before half, the Thunder had two more decent chances, a junior forward Stephen Golz header off a corner that went wide, and a last-second launch from senior defender Stephen Fernandes from beyond midfield that Greenwood skied for and secured to keep a clean sheet in the first.
At the beginning of the second half, Hoppenot had a golden opportunity to increase the Jumbo lead, but his strike would go wide for a corner kick instead. On the ensuing kick, an unintentional handball occurred in the box and Santos, who was cleared to play again and started the half, stepped to the penalty spot and converted the shot before five minutes had elapsed in the frame. It was Santos' 5th game-winning goal of the season and a team-leading 10th goal overall. Santos would be named Offensive Player of the tournament.
The lead would prove to be insurmountable for the Thunder, but just barely. Just four minutes after the Santos PK, Jordan Golz ran onto a floated ball into the box and was taken out by Greenwood. A third penalty shot was awarded and Anthony knocked it into the left corner as Greenwood guessed wrong.
The surge would continue as the Thunder switched their style of attack and began to open it up rather than play. They sent balls forward and quickly so as to catch the Jumbos with fewer numbers back defensively, preventing them from packing it in as they did in the first half.
Hollingsworth drove hard from the middle of the field to the left flank, sending in a pretty ball that dropped into the six. Jordan Golz was there for the initial shot from close-range, but it deflected off Greenwood and dribbled to a waiting Anthony who easily tapped it into the goal bringing the Thunder deficit to one.
The pressure put Tufts on their heels and in the 27th minute Anthony kicked a short corner to junior midfielder Elliot Borge. His rocket of a shot was blocked down defensively, but it didn't go far enough and found the foot of freshman forward Max Carey whose shot was saved by Greenwood. Minutes later, Anthony again had an opportunity, but it skittered across the box and out wide.
As the Thunder moved more men up offensively, it opened up holes in their defense for the Jumbos to attack. Near the 15-minute mark the Jumbos had a fantastic opportunity as Kayne made a move by his defender and raced into the 18 with Majumder on his right who had a defenseman marking him. Kayne drew the goalie off his line and passed across to Majumder a couple yards away. Majumder took a touch to his left to evade Paprocki's rush, but he mishit the shot wide.
However, in the 81st minute, Majumder would get his redemption. In almost an exact replica of the previous play, Kayne and Majumder found themselves in a breakaway situation with only Paprocki and a couple defenders to beat. This time, the Jumbos converted as Kayne sent a ball across to Majumder who sprinted to catch up with it and hit it near post for the score just before Paprocki closed in on the post. Majumder's second mark of the day was the insurance goal Tufts needed to secure the victory and their first-ever national championship.
While Wheaton led in shots (18 to Tufts' 13) and corners (9 to Tufts' 3), the Jumbos got the performance they needed out of every single player to get the job done. Greenwood made eight saves, many of which extraordinary. In the final four games of the tournament, the Jumbos went up against teams who had their respective conference's player of the year. The Jumbos proved their mettle by taking the toughest road in the tournament and coming out victors.
Game Photos by Kelvin Ma / Tufts