Monday, November 14, 2005

WOMEN'S SOCCER ADVANCES TO NCAA TOURNAMENT SECTIONALS

MEDFORD -- The Tufts University Women's Soccer team opened its fourth appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament with a strong weekend (Nov. 11-12) at home on Kraft Field to advance to round of 16. The Jumbos posted wins against Johnson & Wales, 3-0 in the first round, and Bates College, 1-0 in the second round.

The victories improved Tufts' record to 14-3-1, the second-best victory total in program history behind only the 18 wins earned by the national runner-up 2000 Tufts team. With a 7-3-2 overall record in NCAA Tournament play, the Jumbos are advancing to the round of 16 for the third time.

Tufts will play for its third NCAA New England title on Saturday at approximately 1:30 PM against Wheaton College (18-4-2) at Oneonta State University in New York. Wheaton secured its spot in the round of sixteen with shutout wins against Worcester State (4-0) and Western Connecticut (1-0) last weekend.  The shutouts brought Wheaton's total to 17 for the season and extended their winning streak to 16.

The winner of the Tufts-Wheaton game will play on Sunday at 1:00 against the winner of Rochester-Oneonta State.  Rochester (17-1-2) defeated William Smith and Union in two close games for their spot in the final sixteen.  Oneonta State (19-2-1) was granted a bye for the first round and handled Springfield 3-1 to advance.

Versus Johnson & Wales on Saturday, the Jumbos dominated the match and got two goals from senior Lydia Claudio (Woburn, MA/Open Bible Academy) and one from senior tri-captain Lindsay Garmirian (Amherst, MA/Amherst). The Tufts defense limited the Wildcats to five shots, all saved by junior keeper Annie Ross (Newton, MA/Newton South) as the team cruised to its eighth shutout of the season.

In the second round, Tufts faced New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rival Bates College for the third time this season. Tufts had beaten Bates, 2-1 in overtime, during the regular season, but Bates returned the favor with a 2-1 victory in two overtimes in the NESCAC championship match on November 6.  The third and deciding match swung in favor of Tufts, compliments of a Kim Harrington (Helena, MT/Helena) goal in the 24th minute.  The goal was beautifully assisted by senior tri-captain Sarah Callaghan (Northborough, MA/Algonquin), who now totals eight assists for the season.  A solid team-wide defensive effort limited Bates' scoring opportunities, and Ross made seven saves for the ninth shutout.

"We are all so thrilled at the way the weekend turned out," Coach Martha Whiting said. "Although it didn't really matter who we play, I think we were secretly hoping for Bates.  Anytime you lose to a team, especially in a big game, you want the chance for redemption.  I'm so proud of the way our girls played. It might have been our best showing all year.  Bates is an extremely talented team with a potent offense so we knew we'd have to play our best in order to beat them."

The Jumbos and Lyons met earlier this season on September 14.  Tufts handed Wheaton one of its four losses for the year with a 3-2 decision. The victory started a 10-game winning streak and an 11-game unbeaten string that broke 26-year old Tufts records. During the streak, Tufts quickly climbed up the National Soccer Coaches Association of American polls. The Jumbos peaked at #6 in the national poll and held the #1 spot in the regional rankings until a late-season upset loss at Wesleyan.

The last time Tufts faced Wheaton in the NCAA Tournament, the Jumbos won 3-1 to earn the 2000 New England title.

"We are up against another talented team in Wheaton," Whiting said. "At this point in the year we expect any team we face will be a good team.  We need to be determined to come out with the same fire and intensity as we did against Bates.  That's all we can really ask for from the players.  We will focus on one game at a time and just enjoy the excitement and fun of being together for at least one more weekend."

Whiting, the NESCAC Coach of the Year, is a 1993 Tufts graduate who was an All-Star goalkeeper for the Jumbos. She directed Tufts to the conference regular-season title with a 6-2-1 record. Senior tri-captain Ariel Samuelson (Newton, MA/Newton North) was voted the league's Player of the Year and enters the NCAA Sectionals weekend with 12 goals and three assists for 27 points. Her 12 goals are the most in one season by a Jumbo since 1983 and her 27 points tie for the fourth-best total in team history.

Sophomore Martha Furtek (East Falmouth, MA/Falmouth) joined Samuelson on the All-NESCAC First Team, while Claudio and sophomore back Joelle Emery (Bedford, NH/Derryfield School) were on the Second Team. Tufts is averaging 1.78 goals per game and allowing 0.70 per game.

#