MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University men's soccer team are NESCAC Champions for the first time in program history. The Jumbos (15-1-2) defeated the Middlebury Panthers (12-6-0), 1-0, in the NESCAC title game today at Bello Field.
|Brett Rojas had the game-winner in the 88th minute to lift the Jumbos to their first NESCAC crown|
The deciding goal didn't come until the 88th minute. Zach Lane was on the right side of the field just outside of the Middlebury box. He sent a low cross across the face of the net and found a charging Brett Rojas right in front. Rojas headed it into the bottom left corner for the eventually game-winner for the Jumbos.
While the first half was evenly contested for the most part, the second half belonged to Tufts. The Jumbos outshot the Panthers in the second period of play, 14-4.
Kevin Halliday was almost the hero again today, after scoring Tufts' first two goals yesterday, when in the 58th minute he took a shot that couldn't have been hit any better. It was headed for the upper right corner of Middlebury's goal, but goalkeeper Jeremy Yeager was able to punch it away at a full stretch.
Then in the 83rd minute Gavin Tasker was fouled just left of the box, setting up a free kick for the Jumbos. Halliday took it and found the head of Tyler Kulcsar next to the right post. His header went just wide right.
Middlebury almost struck first in the second half when in the 72nd minute Daniel O'Grady let one rip from the left side of the field and sent it curling towards the goal. Conner Mieth jumped, but it went over his hand and at first looked as if it had gone in, while it actually hit the top netting on the outside of the goal.
The first half was a lot slower than second. Only six shots in total were taken, with the Panthers having the edge, 4-2. Middlebury owned the first 20 minutes getting some good pressure on a Jumbo defense that has still only allowed one goal all year long. They had three shots before Tufts got their first look on goal 24 minutes in.
In the 27th minute, Peter Davis sent a high ball into the box that Conor Coleman and Middlebury's Brandon Reid were both going up for. Mieth came out and got his hand above both of their heads to punch it away from danger.
In the dwindling seconds of the first half, O'Grady sent a hard shot into the box that took a quick hop right in front of Mieth, but he was able to corral it as the buzzer sounded for the end of the half.
It was Mieth's only save of the day. On the other end, Yeager had three. Tufts held the advantage in corner kicks seven to four.
Tufts made it to the championship game as the number one overall seed in the tournament. They beat Bates in the quarterfinal, 3-0, and Hamilton in the semis, 4-0. It was their first trip to the NESCAC Finals ever and they came away with the crown.
Up next for the Jumbos will be the opening round of the NCAA tournament next Saturday. Tufts will in all likelihood be hosting the games at Bello. They find out who and when they play on Monday. Middlebury will await a potential NCAA at-large berth.
Recap written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern