Back to the NCAA Final Four
The Tufts men’s soccer team earned a return trip to the NCAA Final Four as they defeated Connecticut College 3-1 on November 24.
Tufts, which scored early in both halves and led 3-0 at one point, improved to 18-2-2 on the season. That matches last year’s program record for wins in a season.
The Jumbos meet Calvin College (23-1-1) in this year’s semifinals in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s a rematch of the 2016 and 2018 NCAA Division III championship games—which Tufts won. This will be the Jumbos’ fourth trip to the Final Four overall, including their national championship victories in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
The Jumbos have now won nine straight NCAA tournament games, and are 25-5-2 in their ninth NCAA appearance overall.
In the game against Connecticut College, the Jumbos jumped on the board early as a goal by senior Zach Lane came just 1:13 into the contest. Sophomore Ian Daly sent a throw-in down the line that eventually made its way to senior Brett Rojas in the middle of the field. He sent a ball through the backline to Lane cutting across the goal area and he netted the first of his two goals in the game.
Jumbo senior co-captain Gavin Tasker and classmate Joe Braun worked a strong give-and-go and managed to find Daly, who was running down the right sideline. He earned Tufts a corner kick, which was punched away by Camel junior goalkeeper AJ Marcucci and earned another Tufts corner.
After a strong series of passes, the Camels earned a scoring opportunity. Sophomore Augie Dejerdjaj redirected a short pass from the left, but Jumbo sophomore goalkeeper Erich Kindermann made the save.
On another Jumbo attacking run, the Camels attempted to clear multiple times, but could not, as Tufts kept the ball in their offensive end. Daly found free space after blocking a clear and fired a right-footed shot that forced the Camel goalkeeper to make a diving save. The rebound fell straight to freshman Sean Traynor, but he fired a shot that went just high.
After a pair of yellow cards, one to each team, the Jumbos earned a free kick from about twenty-five yards out. Daly’s shot, though, was blocked by the Camel wall.
The first half closed with the Jumbos leading 1-0. Tufts had controlled the first 45 minutes with advantages of 8-2 in shots and 5-2 in corners.
The Jumbos quickly struck again to start the second half. After strong passing by Lane and Rojas, they earned a corner kick. Junior Travis Van Brewer sent the left-footed service to the back post. The ball went over Marcucci to Braun who bounced a header towards the goal. As he was when he scored the day before against Washington and Lee in the Sweet 16, Daly was in the right place at the right time and quickly touched the loose ball to complete the play and give the Jumbos a 2-0 lead.
Tufts extended its lead in the 58th minute after a strong touch by Tasker. Rojas sent a beautiful outside-footed pass to spring Tasker. The touch brought Marcucci off his line as Tasker kept the ball in down near the endline. He patiently waited for Lane who was crashing the goal towards the right post. Lane one-touched the pass into the back of the goal for his second on the day and a three-goal Jumbo margin.
Kindermann made one first-half save to earn the victory. Marcucci stopped five of the eight shots on goal that he saw in the losing effort. The Jumbos finished with a large 17-6 advantage in shots and 6-2 in corners.