MEDFORD – The Tufts men's soccer team enters the New England Small Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament as the number one overall seed for the second season in a row. The Jumbos ended the regular season ranked No. 2 in the country posting a conference record of 8-0-2 and an overall 13-0-2 mark. As a result of their success, this will be the seventh straight season in which Tufts will host a Quarterfinal match.
Tufts defeated Bowdoin 4-3 in a thrilling overtime regular-season finale on Tuesday as the Jumbos ended conference play without a loss. The brown and blue clinched the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC Tournament with the result. They have been #1 for three of the last five years including 2014.
A season ago, the Jumbos won their first NESCAC Championship in program history with a 1-0 win against Middlebury. Midfielder Brett Rojas netted the game-winning goal in the 88th minute to lead Tufts to victory. The Jumbos before last year hadn't won a NESCAC Tournament game since 2012 and are now 4-12-4 in the 16 years Tufts has qualified.
The Jumbos will open the 2018 NESCAC Tournament on Sunday at 2:30 pm when they host the eighth-seeded Colby College Mules at Bello Field.
Colby finished the season compiling a conference record of 3-5-2 and an overall record of 7-6-2. The Mules clinched the eight seed in the final game of the regular season with a 2-0 victory against Bates. Colby has qualified for NESCAC's four times in the program's history and have posted an 0-4 record, so they'll be seeking their first win against the Jumbos on Sunday. The last time Colby appeared in the NESCAC Championships was in 2014 where they fell 1-0 to Amherst in the quarterfinals. The Mules scored 15 goals on the year while only allowing an average of 0.97 goals per game behind the play of senior goalie Dan Carlson. Senior back Cam Clouse collected team highs in points with eight and goals with four.
This will be the second time this year that Tufts and Colby will face off and the first time they'll ever meet in the NESCAC Championship. The Jumbos won the match-up earlier this year 1-0 in overtime at Colby on a goal by sophomore forward Max Jacobs on September 8. The Jumbos outshot the Mules 21 (seven on goal) to 10 (six on goal). Tufts senior goalie Conner Mieth recorded six saves.
The Jumbo offense led the NESCAC in goals on the season with 33. Junior forward Joe Braun has had a breakout year as he leads the NESCAC with eight goals and 20 points. Fellow junior Brett Rojas has been a phenomenal distributer this year tallying seven assists which was good for the third-most assists in the NESCAC and the most on the Jumbo roster. Tufts junior midfielder Gavin Tasker also recorded double digits in points with 10 in the regular season.
Tufts' defense has played well this season led by senior backs Jackson Najjar and Sterling Weatherbie. The Jumbo defense has only allowed nine goals this year which is the third-best goals against in the NESCAC with an average of 0.58 goals against. Mieth posted 40 saves on the year and won a career-high 13 games in net in the regular season.
"Our juniors and seniors who were part of the last year's NESCAC championship team and the last national championship team need to prepare our team for what playoff soccer looks like," Tufts head coach Josh Shapiro said. "The intensity rises, the games become tighter. We all know each other so there are very few surprises. Luckily for us we have been in a lot of these big games in the last few years and our older players will know what type of mentality we will need going in to these games to be successful."
Sunday's winner will advance to the semi-finals at the site of the highest remaining seed on Saturday November 3.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello