Nor'easter News - Week 6
Recap of the Week
While parity has been the word of the season so far, there were a number of interesting developments over the last week. After receiving a tough test before prevailing in 1-0 in 2OT last weekend at Bates (who went 2-0 this weekend against Middlebury and Trinity (Conn.)), Tufts finally met its match on the road, as host Wesleyan came from behind to draw 1-1. With Amherst doing well to keep pace, home-field advantage is still in play going into this weekend’s highly anticipated clash between the two aforementioned sides. The NEWMAC produced another draw between two top teams, and the top five teams are all level on winning pct. (0.667). The CCC is still close, but there appear to be three teams emerging at the front of the pack. And Brandeis looks poised to be competitive this year in a wide-open UAA after downing Carnegie Mellon in the Judges’ conference opener, 2-0.
Brandeis started UAA play with a 2-0 home win over Carnegie Mellon. The visiting Tartans looked strong in the early stages of the game, having a shot cleared off the line with the score 0-0, but Brandeis started to turn the screw, and the Judges were rewarded for their persistence when Elias Norris scored his first collegiate goal right after halftime. Brandeis added another in quick succession through Max Breiter, and, from there, the Judges saw out a relatively comfortable victory. Gabe Margolis’ team has not lost to Carnegie Mellon since the 2013 season, going 5-0-1 during that stretch. Carnegie’s current plight means that the Tartans do not seem as strong as in years prior, but Brandeis will be happy to get its conference play started with a win. And, with the parity displayed thus far in the UAA, it could be a crucial three points come November.
Babson and MIT battled to a 1-1 draw in a game that featured a number of twists and turns. In the first half, MIT was outshot 12-1 but managed to take the lead in the 26th minute, which they held through the interval. With just under 20 minutes left in the second half, the host Beavers grabbed an equalizer and pushed on to win the game. Despite a 31-5 shot advantage (14-3 SOG), Babson was held to its second draw of the year. At 5-4-2, the Beavers (one of five teams with a conference win pct. of .667) have managed to improve on their initial start of 3-3-0, but they’ll face the biggest test of their season when Tufts comes to Wellesley. NEWMAC rivals Clark lead the conference, having rebounded from three straight losses with wins over Western New England and WPI, with Wheaton (Mass.), WPI, and MIT in close proximity as well. One result could well be decisive in the race for home-field advantage — and there's no guess as to who might be the team that capitalizes.
Tufts saw its perfect start to the season come to an end on Wednesday night in Connecticut, as the Jumbos were made to settle for a 1-1 draw at NESCAC foe Wesleyan. Even with the emergence of the Jumbos as a national power in the last five years, Wesleyan has always provided a stern test for Tufts, and Geoff Wheeler’s side remains the last to beat Tufts at home in the regular season — a 1-0 win back in 2016. And after Tufts took a first-half lead through Derek Enge, one could be forgiven for thinking that this would be a routine Jumbos win. Wesleyan did not go quietly, though, and moments after a goal-line clearance kept Tufts from making it 2-0, the Cardinals notched a 62nd minute equalizer from Nicholas Wallick. The Jumbos tried to regain the advantage, but despite bossing shots 23-12 (7-4 SOG) they were forced to share the spoils. Saturday, however, it was business as usual in Medford, as Tufts put away visiting Trinity 2-0, with Brett Rojas and Max Jacobs scoring in either half. Tuesday, the Jumbos will travel to Babson, and will be on the road again for a highly-anticipated clash with Amherst (more on that below). However, with averages of 2.89 goals per game and 0.43 goals against — a healthy delta of 2.46 net goals/game — it’d be foolish to bet against Tufts, both in the conference and nationally speaking.
CCC teams have only played four conference games at press time, but there seems to be a three-way race to the top between Roger Williams, Endicott, and Western New England. The Hawks, whose last conference title came back in 2006, were held to a 1-1 draw at Salve Regina on Saturday, and while they will be disappointed to miss out on local bragging rights, goalkeeper Edmund Geschickter racked up a mind-boggling 19 saves, with the only shot beating him coming on a penalty kick. Since itself tying Salve Regina, Endicott has won each of its last four, including a 3-2 2OT win on the road at NEWMAC contender Babson. And Western New England responded well to a 4-2 loss at NEWMAC side Clark — just its second defeat of the year — with a 5-0 hammering of Nichols on Saturday.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Amherst vs. Tufts
A week ago, this game would have been Game of the Week simply because it features the top two teams in the NESCAC standings. With Tufts dropping points on the road at Wesleyan and Amherst continuing to rack up the wins, there is really something to play for. This has become one of the marquee fixtures in NESCAC action in the last few years. It might not have the same historical animus as Amherst’s clashes with Williams, but Amherst-Tufts has continuously been a hard-fought grudge match with physicality, competitive spirit, and big moments on display. And, crucially, since 2013, Tufts has won a national title every year that it has either beaten or drawn with Amherst. Correlation does not equal causation, of course, but an interesting tidbit nonetheless.
Five years ago, in late September — and well before anyone outside of Medford would have guessed Tufts would embark on a historic run two months later — Tufts jumped to a 1-0 lead against Amherst at home, only to be pegged back by a penalty kick in a 1-1 draw. The following year, en route to its own national title, Amherst won it in 2OT, 1-0. In 2016, Tufts began hosting its games at Bello Field, and the Jumbos served up a 3-0 win. Even with their success two years prior, most wouldn’t have picked Josh Shapiro’s side to win another national title that year, but this game (on Oct. 1st of that year) perhaps gave observers the first real sense that this team had the potential to match its feat. 2017 saw Tufts win its first NESCAC title, but not before Amherst handed the Jumbos their only regular-season loss that year, a 1-0 triumph at home that the Mammoths earned despite being outshot 22-8 on the day. Last year, the teams went to battle twice in Medford, and Tufts won both games: once in the regular season, 2-1, and a second time in the NCAA Sweet 16, 3-0, the latter of which proved a crucial result in the Jumbos’ third championship in five years.
As it stands, Amherst has two draws to its name, while Tufts has one, meaning that — even if these teams do end up deadlocked — Tufts still controls its own fate. Moreover, if Tufts snags its first win at Hitchcock Field in recent memory, it will likely be anointed favorite status for the NESCAC tournament (and would go a long way to securing home-field advantage). However, an Amherst win would completely change the dynamics of the race for home-field advantage, and given the Mammoths’ record against Tufts in the Pioneer Valley, that could indirectly be crucial in the destination of this year’s conference title. Time will tell, but the anticipation is undoubtedly building already.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin