December 6, 2019

Tufts in men's final again

Other Semifinal Recaps:  Men's Semifinal 1 Women's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
Senior Zach Lane opens the scoring for Tufts.

By Hannah Lichtenstein

Photos by Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com

Late Friday night, old foes faced off in a rematch of last year’s National Championship. Tufts proved yet again that they are Calvin’s kryptonite as they shutout the Knights 4-0 to set up an all NESCAC final.

First Half

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and a four-game Friday Final Four showed us the true meaning behind the statement. If there’s one gift that keeps on giving, it’s a Tufts-Calvin game. The big question going into arguably the most highly-anticipated match of the day was this: Could Calvin get the Tufts’ monkey off their backs?

To start off, it seemed the game might actually play into Calvin’s hands this go-round. With one of the most potent offenses in the country and a Tufts’ backline that hasn’t been as airtight as we’ve come to expect in previous seasons, there was a feeling at first that today could be the Knights’day.

However,  the Jumbos slowly started to assert themselves on the game once the big game jitters fully settled. And then, well, there was a feeling of “deja vu all over again” in the air about halfway through the first. Senior midfielder Zach Lane bulldozed his way into the six with a brilliant weaving effort and slotted home the defending champs’ opening goal.

The Jumbos celebrate Mati Cano's spectacular goal to open a 3-0 lead.

That set the tone. Waves and waves of Tufts’ attack followed. The Jumbo lead was doubled in the 33rd when Alex Ratzan decided to show off his best Wesley Sneijder impression. The junior midfielder cut in from the right wing, took a few dribbles and sent a beauty into the upper corner past an outstretched Chris Moorish. The Calvin defense was nowhere to be found as Ratzan had what seemed like minutes on the ball with no pressure.

The water wasn’t quite done pouring into the sinking ship that was the Knights’ first-half defense. Just seven minutes later, Mati Cano nestled away as incredible of a goal as you’ll see at any level of soccer. With essentially zero momentum, the junior took a touch to set himself up and sent yet another bending effort far post into the net. With a 3-0 lead heading into half, it seemed as if Tufts had all but booked their place in Saturday’s championship.

Second Half

If there’s a team that’s shown they can put away goals this year though, it’s been the Knights who have averaged just about three goals a game in another dominant season. Not to mention, whatever Coach Ryan Sounders said in the locker room resonated. Calvin came out in the second half like they a fire lit under their behinds.

The Knights looked dangerous at times, pushing forward and creating opportunities. Getting a handful of shots off and asserting themselves in the final third saw Tufts’ GK Erich Kindermann get his first real action of the game. This is a national semifinal against an arch-rival after all. Calvin was not just going to roll over.

Senior Gavin Tasker completes the scoring with a late tally.

However, the Jumbos, sitting on that 3-0 lead, had no problem hanging back as the opposition tried to find a way through. And, of course, when you’re Calvin, and you’re putting numbers forward trying to find a goal someway somehow, you risk springing a leak defensively. That’s just what happened. All-American senior Gavin Tasker put the nail in the coffin when he found himself all alone behind the Calvin backline with only Moorish to beat. Hard to bet against Tasker in that situation. He delivered the fourth and final blow in the 84th.

D3 soccer lovers were no doubt expecting a game with a lot of goals, but few probably predicted this. The Knights have fallen to the Jumbos three times in the last four Decembers. Tufts will try to defend their title and clinch a fourth natty championship in six years when they take on Amherst tomorrow. 

 


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Other Semifinal Recaps:  Men's Semifinal 1 Women's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
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