SWARTHMORE, Pa. – In an NCAA "Elite 8" matchup between New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) foes on Sunday afternoon at Swarthmore College, the Tufts University men's soccer team defeated Connecticut College 3-1 to earn a return trip to the "Final Four."
Head coach Josh Shapiro's Jumbos will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina for a rematch of the 2016 and 2018 NCAA Championship Games on December 6 as Tufts will meet Calvin College (23-1-1) in this year's semifinals. This will be the Jumbos' fourth trip to the Final Four overall, including their national championship victories in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Tufts, who scored early in both halves today and led 3-0 at one point, improve to 18-2-2 on the season. That matches last year's program record for wins in a season. Connecticut College sees their season close at 13-4-3.
The Jumbos jumped on the board early today as a goal by senior Zach Lane came just 1:13 into the contest. Sophomore Ian Daly sent a throw-in down the line that eventually made its way to senior Brett Rojas in the middle of the field. He sent a ball through the backline to Lane cutting across the goal area and he netted the first of his two goals in the game.
Connecticut College responded with a corner kick, however an offside was called to negate the opportunity.
Jumbo senior co-captain Gavin Tasker and classmate Joe Braun worked a strong give-and-go and managed to find Daly, who was running down the right sideline. He earned Tufts a corner kick which was punched away by Camel junior goalkeeper AJ Marcucci and earned another Tufts corner. That header shot by junior Calvin Aroh would go over the goal.
After a strong series of passes, the Camels earned a scoring opportunity. Sophomore Augie Dejerdjaj redirected a short pass from the left, but Jumbo sophomore goalkeeper Erich Kindermann made the save on the shot.
A strong punt by Kindermann hit a Camel defenders' head and it went out for a throw. A failed clear by the Connecticut College defense set up a corner. The Zach Seigelstein kick was handled by Marcucci who quickly threw forward for junior Liam Noonan. He chipped a pass over the Tufts defense to spring frteshman Bailor Jalloh, but his shot went wide right.
On another Jumbo attacking run, the Camels attempted to clear multiple times and could not as Tufts kept the ball in their offensive end. Daly found free space after blocking a clear and fired a right-footed shot that forced the Camel goalkeeper to make a diving save. The rebound fell straight to freshman Sean Traynor, but he fired a shot that went just high in the 36th minute.
After a pair of yellow cards, one to each team, the Jumbos earned a free kick from about 25 yards out. Daly's shot however was blocked by the Camel wall.
The first half of the Elite 8 matchup would close with the Jumbos leading 1-0. Tufts had controlled the first 45 minutes with advantages of 8-2 in shots and 5-2 in corners.
The Jumbos quickly struck again to start the second half. After strong passing by Lane and Rojas, they earned a corner kick. Junior Travis Van Brewer sent the left-footed service to the back post. The ball went over Marcucci to Braun who bounced a header towards the goal. As he was when he scored the day before against Washington and Lee in the "Sweet 16," Daly was in the right place at the right time and quickly touched the loose ball to complete the play and give the Jumbos a 2-0 lead in the 49th minute.
An excellent opportunity for the Camels to score came in the 53rd minute as Djerdjaj fired a shot from about 25 yards out. His right-footed attempt was bending to the left, but it hit the corner where the crossbar and left post meet.
Tufts would extend their lead in the 58th minute after a strong touch by Tasker. Rojas sent a beautiful outside-footed pass to spring Tasker. The touch brought Marcucci off his line as Tasker kept the ball in down near the endline. He patiently waited for Lane who was crashing the goal towards the right post. Lane one-touched the pass into the back of the goal for his second on the day and a three-goal Jumbo margin.
The Camels would get on the board in the 78th minute as Noonan fired a shot that was deflected by a Tufts defender. Junior Ben Ludwick passed the ball back up the field to let Noonan run into the shot and he scored his fifth goal of the season in the 78th minute.
Kindermann made one first-half save to earn the victory. Marcucci stopped five of the eight shots on goal that he saw in the losing effort. The Jumbos finished with a large 17-6 advantage in shots and 6-2 in corners.
Tufts has now won nine straight NCAA Tournament games and is 25-5-2 in their ninth NCAA appearance overall.
The Jumbo semifinal against Calvin is slated to start at 7:45 pm on December 6 in Greensboro. The Knights defeated Luther 3-0 in an Elite 8 matchup on Saturday. The Jumbos won national championship games against Calvin both last year (2-1) and in 2014 (1-0 in overtime). Amherst College (18-1-2) and Centre College (20-3-1) will play in the other NCAA semifinal on December 6 in Greensboro.
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