MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University men's soccer team will play in a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) semifinal this Saturday at Bello Field. It is the first time the Jumbos (13-1-2, 7-1-2 NESCAC) have made it to this stage in the conference tournament since 2012.
Tufts came into the tournament as the number one overall seed and will be taking on the seventh seeded Hamilton College Continentals (8-6-2, 4-5-1 NESCAC) at 11 a.m. after they defeated Amherst, the two seed, last Saturday.
The other semifinal will be between the five-seed Middlebury (11-5-0, 5-5-0 NESCAC) and three-seed Bowdoin (10-3-3, 6-2-2 NESCAC) following the first at 1:30 p.m. Both semifinals and the final will be played at Bello Field as Tufts earned the right to host the final rounds as the highest remaining seed after defeating the eighth-seeded Bates Bobcats 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
The Jumbos have been having a great season to this point. The offense has scored 35 goals in 16 games, which is one more than last year's team, that won the national championship, scored in 22 games. The 35 goals is the most the program has scored in a season since 2006 when they also had 35 and is the most in NESCAC. The defense has only allowed one goal all year for a 0.06 goals against per game average which is the best in NESCAC and good enough for second overall in the nation.
Something that makes this Jumbo squad so dangerous is that you never know who is going to be the hero on any given day. There have been 12 different players that have scored multiple goals this season. Last year, there were only five players with at least two goals.
Tufts comes into this semifinal matchup already having beaten Hamilton once this year. The Jumbos traveled to Hamilton on the first of October and came away with a 1-0 victory. Sophomore Joe Braun scored the game-winner in the 59th minute with the assist coming from classmate Zach Trevorrow. The win over the Continentals this season was the program's first since 2014, having tied once and lost once in the previous two meetings.
The other semifinal will feature the Middlebury Panthers and the Bowdoin Polar Bears. The Panthers come into the matchup after having defeated the fourth seed in the tournament, Connecticut College, 1-0. The game was scoreless through two halves and took until overtime to be decided. Brandon Reid managed to breakaway through the Connecticut defense and score in the 95th minute to win the game.
The Polar Bears faced Williams in their quarterfinal game and played to a 1-1 tie through two periods and double overtime. They advanced on penalty kicks, 4-3.
When these two teams played earlier in the season, Bowdoin came out on top with a 3-1 win. The Polar Bears struck first, but less than four minutes later the Panthers had tied it. Bowdoin's Moctar Niang made it 2-1 in the 37th minute to take a lead into halftime. Niang then added an insurance goal early in the second half to put the game away.
Tufts will be looking to advance to and win the NESCAC finals for the first time. This is their third appearance in the semifinals in 16 tournament appearances.
The Jumbo defense is led by co-captains Conor Coleman and Sterling Weatherbie who have combined for 31 out of a possible 32 starts. Matt Zinner and Jackson Najjar have logged big minutes as well. The unit has only allowed 35 shots on goal, which is the best mark in NESCAC by a large margin. Williams, who has the second-best mark, has allowed 57. Coleman and Weatherbie have helped out on offense as well, with Coleman recording two goals and two assists and Weatherbie adding two goals of his own.
Having such a stout back line helps to create opportunities for the offense. Senior Dexter Eichhorst has five goals on the year. Sophomore Gavin Tasker has four, while sophomore Zach Lane and freshman Travis Van Brewer both have three.
Junior Conner Mieth started in goal in the Jumbos' quarterfinal game. He has a 6-1-0 record on the year as he recorded 11 saves with a .917 save percentage.
The winner of both semifinals will face off in the NESCAC championship game at Bello Field on Sunday at noon.
Live video coverage of all three matches at the NESCAC Championship will be available at https://www.nsnsports.net/conferences/nescac/. Links to live stats for all matches are at http://www.nescac.com/sports/msoc/2017-18/championship/bracket/index.
Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern