GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Tufts University men's soccer team will play in the NCAA Championship Game tomorrow following its 3-1 victory over the University of Rochester in the NCAA "Final Four" at the University of North Carolina Greensboro on Friday.
Junior Joe Braun, announced as a first team All-American on Friday night, figured in all of Tufts' scoring with one goal and two assists as the Jumbos built a 3-0 lead in the game. The Yellowjackets scored in the 72nd minute to break up the shutout, but the Jumbos went forth to remain unbeaten on the year (17-0-3).
Rochester, playing at the Final Four for the first time, finished its season at 16-3-2.
Tufts will play Calvin College in the NCAA final on Saturday at 2:30 pm. The Knights (22-1) defeated the University of Chicago in today's other semifinal 4-1. Tomorrow's national championship game will be a rematch of the 2016 NCAA final between Tufts and Calvin, which the Jumbos won 1-0 in the second overtime.
Today, the Jumbos were able to continue clicking offensively. They added three more goals to their NCAA Tournament total of 11 in four games. Though they conceded their first goal of the tournament to Rochester today, the Jumbos again did a good job containing the Yellowjackets' on their offensive chances.
After some modest early opportunities by both teams, Tufts took control of the play for a stretch about 15 minutes in. Shots by juniors Gavin Tasker and Brett Rojas were both blocked, with Rojas' coming from a particular dangerous area inside the box.
Eight minutes later, the Jumbos earned corner as Braun took a pass from sophomore Calvin Aroh, spun to shoot and forced a good save by Rochester keeper Patrick Conway. On the corner, sophomore Travis Van Brewer sent his kick into the heart of the goal area and the 6'5" Braun extended to head it in for a goal in the 22nd minute.
Though Rochester did not put a shot on goal in the first half, they had some solid chances. An early ball played in towards the goal was bobbled by Jumbo senior goalie Conner Mieth, but he was able to cover it up before anyone from Rochester could capitalize. The Yellowjackets also earned two free kicks in advantageous positions during the first half, but neither resulted in a strong attempt.
Tufts had some stellar opportunities to add to their lead with shots in transition late in the first half. Conway raced out of his goal to save a shot by a wide-open Braun with 19 minutes left. A header from sophomore Zach Trevorrow off a beautiful ball from junior Tanner Jameson zipped wide left.
Tufts would get that second goal just five minutes into the second half. Freshman back Ian Daly sent a long ball into the Rochester side that Braun won with his head after a bounce. With one defender on him, Braun saw junior Gavin Tasker charging towards the goal on the left side with open field in front of him. Braun touched it over to Tasker, who with Conway coming out at him calmly switched from his right to left foot and scored for a 2-0 lead.
Though Tufts was having the better of the play, Rochester continued to create possibilities. At the 31-minute mark of the second half, a corner kick by Mitch Volis rolled through the box without any Yellowjacket able to put a foot on it.
Braun would again be in the middle of the scoring play that put Tufts' advantage at three. He won a ball in the middle of the offensive end and dished right to Lane, who made a move left to get an open shot. From the top-center of the box Lane fired one past a diving Conway to the left side in the 61st minute.
The Rochester goal would give them some momentum. A corner kick by Bryce Ikeda was flicked by Ulrik Koren to Aidan Miller, who headed it into the net pulling the Yellowjackets within 3-1. It was the first goal allowed by the Jumbos since October 23 in their regular-season finale at Bowdoin.
Just minutes later, a header by Tufts' Sterling Weatherbie deflected off a teammate giving Miller another chance that Mieth had to make a play on though it would have been wide.
Tufts twice looked as though they had scored a goal to put the game on ice, but it wasn't meant to be. A Max Jacobs tally with 15 minutes remaining in regulation was waved off due to an off-side call. Rochester's Will Eisold later made a team save when a shot by Lane had beaten Conway.
Mieth put a nice final touch on the win with his best save of the game, going down to take away a blast by Zach Lawlor from the left side with less than 20 seconds remaining.
The Jumbos finished with a 14-7 advantage in shots, including 8-3 in the first half. Corners were even at 3-3. Conway made four saves in the Rochester goal while Mieth had one for Tufts
Tufts will be playing in the NCAA final for the third time in the last five years. On both previous occasions they won the national championship, defeating Wheaton (Ill.) 4-2 in 2014 and the 1-0 overtime victory against Calvin. The Jumbos will be attempting to become only the fifth team in NCAA Division III history to win a third national championship. Calvin win be vying for their first national title.