GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Tufts University men's soccer team scored three goals in the first half to power its way to a 4-0 victory over Calvin University in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Friday night at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
The victory puts the Jumbos into an all-New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship Game. Tufts will face Amherst College in the NCAA final on Saturday night at 7 pm.
Tonight's win is the Jumbos' 19th of the season setting a new program record. Tufts (19-2-2) received highlight-reel goals from senior Zach Lane, junior Alex Ratzan and junior Mati Cano within 16 minutes of each other in the middle of the first half. They added a late tally by senior co-captain Gavin Tasker for the four-goal victory, which is the most decisive in an NCAA Division III Championship semifinal since 2013.
With three other NCAA Division III Championship men's and women's semifinal games played earlier at the site, the Jumbos and the Knights did not start until approximately 8:45 pm. The Knights had the early edge. Eight minutes in, freshman Justin Wojcik won a ball at the top right corner of the box and maneuvered towards the center for a left-footed shot that sailed just over the cross bar. Wojcik would later force Tufts goalkeeper Erich Kindermann to make the only save of the first half, with the Jumbo sophomore diving left to stop Wojcik's shot that was headed inside the post.
The Jumbos had three corners in the early-going, and on the first senior co-captain Tanner Jameson's header hit softly off the crossbar. Jameson would also make a key defensive play in first half, stretching to clear a cross that was headed for Calvin sophomore Sam Twigg in front of the goal.
Tufts would score their three first-half goals on six shots. The first came from Lane on a tremendous individual effort. After a throw-in by senior Drew Stern, the ball made its way over to Lane on the right side. He beat three defenders and fired a shot that glanced off Calvin goalkeeper Chris Morrish's hands and into the net for a 1-0 Tufts lead in the 24th minute.
The Jumbos flashed their depth on the next two goals. Head coach Josh Shapiro made five substitutions on the offensive end and they paid off. In the 33rd minute, junior Alex Ratzan scored the second Tufts goal when he received the ball along the right side of the box. He moved along the top to get a shot and fired it past Morrish into the middle of the cage for a two-goal lead.
Cano capped the trifecta with a laser shot into the top right corner of the net from the opposite side of the field in the 40th minute. Junior Max Jacobs sent the ball to Cano at the top left of the box, from where he took a dribble outside the 18 and unleashed for his second goal of the season. Both Lane and Ratzan had tallied their team-high seventh goals of the year.
Kindermann was solid for the Jumbos early, making the diving save, punching away a ball that came into the box and playing with smart aggression. He would continue that into the second half, rising to stop a shot by Calvin's Ian Adams that was targeted for the top right of the cage barely one minute into the period.
The Tufts defense did a strong job limiting Calvin's opportunities in the second half. Kindermann had to make three more stops, but the early attempt was the most dangerous.
Content to protect their lead, Tufts had just one shot in the second half and they scored on it. Junior midfielder Calvin Aroh started the play in the middle of Tufts' defensive half by sending a ball that Ratzan controlled on the other side of the field. Ratzan would add an assist to his earlier goal as he found Tasker on the run down the left side and hit him in open space. Morrish rushed out, but Tasker tapped it past him from inside the box in the 84th minute for icing on the cake.
Calvin finished with a slight 10-7 advantage in shots and 5-3 in corners. Kindermann made four saves while Morrish did not have one in the contest. Along with one the scoreboard, Tufts' advantage also came in fouls by a 15-7 margin.
The Jumbos will be playing for their fourth NCAA championship overall and second in a row tomorrow versus Amherst. The Mammoths defeated Tufts 2-1 in overtime during the regular season.
Watch the Post-Game Press Conferences ...