Soccer Takes National Championship

Men’s soccer defeats Amherst for its second straight NCAA title and fourth in six years
Large group of soccer players and coaches hoist the NCAA trophy into the air. Tufts men’s soccer defeated Amherst for its second straight NCAA title and fourth in six years.
The Jumbos celebrate after the game. Tufts finished the 2019 season with a 20-2-2 record, two more victories than any team in program history. Photo: Brian Westerholt
December 9, 2019

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The Tufts men’s soccer team won its second straight NCAA championship and fourth in the last six years with a 2-0 victory over Amherst College on December 7.

The Jumbos, who have won all four titles under head coach Josh Shapiro, become just the third program in NCAA Division III history to win four or more national championships. Tufts finished the 2019 season with a 20-2-2 record, two more victories than any team in program history.

Senior co-captain Gavin Tasker, named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for the NCAA Final Four, scored in the twenty-fifth minute to give Tufts a 1-0 lead. Junior Max Jacobs added an insurance tally in the seventy-fourth minute, assisted by classmate Alex Ratzan, who had a goal and two assists in two games this past weekend.

Junior Calvin Aroh, the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the weekend, and sophomore goalie Erich Kindermann (six saves) led the defensive effort as Tufts did not allow a goal in the NCAA semifinal or final. The Jumbos are the only team to have won an NCAA Championship Game by shutout since 2009, which also includes Tufts’ 1-0 overtime victory against Calvin in 2016.

Tufts added today’s title to NCAA crowns won by the team in 2018, 2016, and 2014. This year’s squad also won the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship. Including their school-record victory total, by the numbers it’s the most successful season in the Jumbo men’s soccer history.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be in this place as NESCAC champions, as national champions, as defending national champions,” Shapiro said after the game. “It was an incredibly hard-fought game. Amherst has become such a challenging rivalry. We couldn’t be happier.”

Forward Joe Braun takes the ball upfield. Photo: Brian WesterholtThe Jumbos had a great scoring chance seven minutes into the game, played at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, when Tasker back-footed a pass to senior Joe Braun inside the top left of the box, but Amherst sophomore goalie Bernie White saved Braun’s blast.

Tasker’s goal in the twenty-fifth minute was started by senior back Drew Stern, who won a ball near the middle of the field. He passed to sophomore Zach Seigelstein, whose passing attempt was then blocked by an Amherst defender. The ball ricocheted back to Stern, who dribbled and then made a pass to Tasker just outside the top left of the box. Tasker touched through a pair of Amherst defenders and scored on a shot that bounced in off the far post for a 1-0 Tufts lead.

Amherst’s first shot on goal by senior Dane Lind didn’t come until 9:35 remained in the first half, and Kindermann made the routine save. However, that began a strong finish to the first half by the Mammoths. Amherst sophomore German Giammattei, who entered the game with twenty-six goals this season, made his first attempt with a bicycle shot that went over the goal with three minutes remaining until halftime. Kindermann then had his best save of the half on Giammattei’s blast from the right side, deflecting the ball over the cage with his hand.

The Jumbos’ sophomore goalkeeper would make a similar save halfway into the second stanza. The ball bounced to wide-open Amherst junior Sebastian Derby in the right side of the box. Kindermann again made a hand save, sending the ball over the cross bar on a strong attempt with twenty-seven minutes remaining. Another save by Kindermann came on a Mammoths’ corner when he was perfectly positioned to grab a header by junior Kyle Kelly with twenty-two minutes left in regulation.

Tufts took a 2-0 lead after junior Mati Cano ran down a ball on the left side of the field. The Jumbos circled it over to Ratzan on the right side. His service into the box was missed on a clear attempt by an Amherst defender. Jacobs had the ball bounce off his chest and then chased after it and poked it past a charging White with his right foot.

The Jumbos would create nearly a handful of good chances to extend the lead shortly after the goal. Senior Zach Lane beat a defender on the right side, and had his shot slide just wide of the far post. Senior Brett Rojas and sophomore Aidan Welsh took straight-on shots from outside the box that came close.

Including their school-record victory total, by the numbers this year’s team has been the most successful season in the Jumbo men’s soccer history. Photo: Brian WesterholtAmherst put the pressure on the in the final ten minutes. The best chance was by freshman Ignacio Cubeddu from a tight angle on the left side that went just outside of the near post. Before long the Jumbos were charging the field to celebrate their fourth title.

“Going into the year we had pretty high expectations for ourselves,” said Tasker. “I think at parts during the season those expectations weighed on us a little bit. But getting the NESCAC championship and also the NCAA championship is something we’ll never forget.”

“So many people played a part in it,” said Aroh. “Just look at how many people we subbed in the last two games and throughout the whole season. I think everyone has played a huge part and that was the biggest thing.”

The Mammoths finished with a 13-11 advantage in shots, though Tufts earned eight corners to four by Amherst. White made three stops in the Amherst goal. The physical contest saw thirty-two fouls, nineteen on the Jumbos.

Tufts avenged a regular-season loss at Amherst 2-1 in overtime on October 12. The Mammoths, who were vying for their second national championship in program history, finished with a 19-2-2 record.

In addition to Tasker and Aroh, Braun, Lane and sophomore back Will Raphael were the Jumbos named to the All-Tournament team.

In the semifinal, played on December 7, The Jumbos scored three goals in the first half to power its way to a 4-0 victory over Calvin University.

The NCAA championship is the eleventh for Tufts since 2010. Men’s soccer’s four is the most at the school, followed by men’s lacrosse and softball with three each and field hockey with one.

Director of Athletics Communication Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.