MEDFORD - Tufts Men's Soccer comes into the season with NESCAC and NCAA title aspirations as usual. The Jumbos will have to replace seven players who were key contributions to the success from a season ago, but have plenty of talent returning to this year's roster.
The Jumbos begin their season on Tuesday as they host non-conference action versus UMass Boston at Bello Field. Tufts comes into the new season hungry and with keen eyes towards defending their New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title won last year, and challenging for their third national title after winning NCAA crowns in 2014 and 2016.
|Brett Rojas scored the game-winning goal for the NESCAC Championship last fall and returns as one of the team's top offensive players|
Head coach Josh Shapiro's squad enters the 2018 season ranked 5th in the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division III Men's National Preseason Poll. This ranking comes after Tufts finished 15-2-4 overall (7-1-2 NESCAC) last season. The Jumbos won their first NESCAC Championship in 2017 by a score of 1-0 over Middlebury. Tufts had their hopes for another national championship shot down with a 1-0 overtime loss to Brandeis in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Shapiro won NESCAC Coach of the Year honors for the second time in 2017.
"Our big picture team goals are to be competitive for a NESCAC championship and to get into the NCAA tournament and to make a run," Shapiro said. "We have much more important smaller picture goals of competing every day, improving every day, and working to maintain our health and fitness every day."
Tufts graduated seven seniors, six of who were a part of both NCAA Championship Teams - including 2017 All-Americans Conor Coleman (1st Team) and Tyler Kulscar (3rd Team). Coleman also took home the NESCAC Player of the Year Award. Kulscar and Coleman were voted First Team All-NESCAC.
The Jumbos will be led in net by senior goalkeeper Conner Mieth. He had an excellent junior season in which he only allowed two goals in 12 games started. Helping Tufts to the second-best defensive mark in D3 last fall, Meith recorded 0.16 goals against average and recorded 10 shutouts last season. In dramatic fashion, he helped deliver two NCAA Tournament wins in the penalty kicks round last year.
Senior Sterling Weatherbie was voted Second Team All-NESCAC and will be the leader of the Jumbos' back line after starting 19 games last fall. Senior Jackson Najjar is the only other back who started more than 10 games a season ago, so there are opportunities for young players to make an impact in this area. Junior Tanner Jameson (six starts last year) is an emerging force in back.
"We hope to be a strong team defensively again and to continue to develop our ability to dictate games with the ball," Shapiro said. "We also want to focus on turning our possession in to more dangerous scoring opportunities."
Juniors Brett Rojas and Gavin Tasker tied for the team lead in points last season with 11 apiece. Rojas scored the lone goal for the Jumbos in the NESCAC Championship game last season. Fellow junior Zach Lane led the Jumbos with six points in 10 NESCAC games played. Tufts scored 40 goals in 21 games (1.90 goals per game). In addition to those offensive leaders, the Jumbos will bring back juniors Zach Trevorrow and sophomore Travis Van Brewer who were five out of the seven top point scorers for the 2017 campaign.
Sophomore Calvin Aroh was one of seven Jumbos to play in all 21 games during his freshman campaign. Classmate Alex Ratzan was also a regular in his first season last fall. Juniors Jack Delaney and Joe Braun join them among other Jumbos who could take on larger roles this fall. Jarrod Glover will also look to contribute with a strong senior season.
Coach Shapiro and his staff have added a freshman class which saw nine newcomers land roster spots. Including seven sophomores on the 27-man rosgter, it's an overall young Jumbo roster which heads into the new year looking to maintain the team's level of success achieved in recent years.
Written by Athletic Communications intern Bryan Costello