Men’s Soccer Wins National Championship
The Tufts men’s soccer team won its third NCAA Championship in the last five years with a 2-1 victory over Calvin College at University of North Carolina at Greensboro Stadium on December 1.
The Jumbos became just the fifth program in NCAA Division III history to win three national championships, which they did all under head coach Josh Shapiro. They built a 2-0 lead, then after Calvin Aroh scored on a penalty kick in the fiftieth minute, the Jumbos withstood the Knights’ offensive pressure to post the victory and finish the season unbeaten (18-0-3).
Tufts scored just two minutes into the game to grab a 1-0 lead. Junior Brett Rojas did great work keeping possession in the Calvin end, then back-footed a pass to sophomore Travis Van Brewer. He led junior Gavin Tasker down the left side, and Tasker sent the ball into the fray in the middle of the goal area. The ball would deflect out to Aroh, whose shot deflected off a defender and went in.
Calvin College (22-2) would have an edge in possession for the half, but the Jumbos did a good job containing the Knights’ scoring chances. Calvin had its first shot ten minutes in, as Sam Twigg sent a good chance just wide right. Jacob Witte had the Knights’ first shot on goal from straight on with nineteen minutes on the clock, but Jumbo senior goalie Conner Mieth made the save.
Not tested too much in any of Tufts’ four NCAA games previous to today, Mieth was sharp finishing with five saves. Calvin came into the weekend as the number one ranked scoring team in Division III with a 4.14 goals per game average. They won 4-1 over the University of Chicago in November 30’s national semifinals. Along with Mieth, seniors Sterling Weatherbie and Jackson Najjar, junior Tanner Jameson, sophomore Biagio Paoletta and freshman Ian Daly excelled defensively in back.
The Knights also had some early free-kick opportunities as the foul count was 8-0 Tufts in the opening minutes of the game. A free kick by Calvin’s Trent Vegter later in the half was just wide from thirty yards out.
Calvin goalie Chris Morrish (three saves) denied a strong Tufts chance with 16:45 on the clock. Tasker sent the ball to Braun in the middle, and he got it over to Zach Lane for a wide-open shot. However, Morrish was on the spot to make the save.
Not much time passed before Lane would make up for it. On a throw-in from the left side deep in Knights territory, Daly heaved the ball into the goal area and Lane headed it in off a bounce for a 2-0 Jumbo lead in the thirtieth minute.
The game went to the half with the Jumbos leading 2-0. Calvin had slight advantages in shots (5-4) and corners (3-2) after forty-five minutes.
Calvin cut the lead to 2-1 early in the second half after the Jumbos were whistled for a take-down in the box and a penalty shot was granted. Knights junior Hunter Olson scored with his shot into right side of the net.
Shortly thereafter a Lane header was saved by Morrish, as was a shot by Jumbo junior Joe Braun. However, the Knights would have the majority of possession in the period and finished with an 8-3 advantage in shots for the second half. The Knights had a pair of corner kicks in the 83rd minute that the Jumbos defended well.
Perhaps Mieth’s best save of the game was off a header by Vegter with just fifteen seconds left in regulation, as the Jumbos went the distance to earn the W.
The Knights nearly doubled Tufts in shots, 13-7, and also had a 6-4 advantage in corners for the game. True scoring chances favored Tufts. Head coach Josh Shapiro used twenty-one players in the game, compared to thirteen for Calvin.
Braun, who scored a goal with two assists in the Jumbos’ 3-1 NCAA semifinal victory over Rochester on November 30, was named as the weekend’s Most Outstanding Player. Lane, Mieth, Tasker and senior co-captain Sterling Weatherbie were named to the All-Tournament team.
The game was a rematch of the 2016 NCAA Final that Tufts won against Calvin 1-0 in two overtimes. The Jumbos’ 2014 NCAA Championship came in a 4-2 victory against Wheaton (Ill.).
In their eighth tournament appearance overall, and sixth in the last seven years, Tufts now has an impressive 21-5-2 record (.768) in NCAA tournament games.
This is the tenth NCAA title won by a Tufts team since 2010. Like men’s soccer, men’s lacrosse and softball have also won three national championships. Field hockey has the other.