Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
AMHERST, Mass. – Senior Joe Braun tallied the game-winner in the 88th minute giving the Tufts University men's soccer team its second NESCAC Championship in program history today by a 2-1 score over Middlebury College in the conference final played at Amherst College.
Late in regulation, after a physical few minutes, the Jumbos forced a turnover at midfield. Sophomore Will Raphael played the ball forward to senior Zach Lane on the right wing. Lane found junior Calvin Aroh in the middle of the field and he chipped a pass over the Panther backline to Braun, who quickly fired a shot into the top left corner of the goal to give the Jumbos a 2-1 lead in the 88th minute. The Jumbos (14-2-2), seeded second in the tournament, locked down defensively in the remaining time to claim the 2019 NESCAC Championship, adding it to the 2017 title to win two of the last three.
Middlebury (8-3-7), the sixth seed who upset top-seed Amherst 1-0 in the semifinals, tied today's game at 1-1 late. The Panthers earned a corner kick in the 79th minute. While the Jumbos had cleared away the initial threat, sophomore Max Drazen collected the loose ball about 25 yards out. He fired a shot that dropped just in front of Tufts sophomore goalkeeper Erich Kindermann and bounced over the diving goalkeeper into the net.
The Jumbos, the defending NCAA champion, earn the NESCAC's automatic qualifier into the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Middlebury will await the selection show which will air on Monday afternoon at 1:30 pm to find out if they will receive an at-large berth.
At the start of today's conference final, after forcing an offensive zone turnover Tufts senior Gavin Tasker looked to switch the field. He found Braun, who sent the ball to senior Brett Rojas for a shot that was blocked out of bounds. That allowed Jumbo sophomore Ian Daly to take a long throw-in from the right sideline that went to the middle of the box for Rojas, who headed a shot on goal that was saved by Panther goalkeeper Ryan Grady.
The Panthers earned the first corner kick of the game as Brendan Barry took the kick from the right corner. His left-footed service was headed towards goal, which forced Kindermann to come off the goal line and collect a loose ball.
Following strong ball control clearing their defensive end, the Jumbos found Aroh who was about 25 yards out. His shot attempt would go just over the crossbar. Tufts would continue the attack and earn their first corner kick. However, it was cleared away by the Panther defense.
Middlebury drew a foul deep in the Jumbo defensive end, but the free-kick from just outside the 18-yard box was blocked away by the Jumbo defending wall.
Tufts gained a corner kick with about eight minutes to play in the opening half. Sophomore Zach Seigelstein sent the ball to the middle of the box, but a foul cleared the opportunity.
With under five minutes to play, Tufts senior Zach Trevorrow won the race to a loose ball and earned a throw-in for the Jumbos. The service was cleared out the end line by Middlebury giving Tufts a corner kick. From the right corner, the ball found its way to the left side of the goal where Daly was waiting and fired a strike, but it was directly at Grady who stopped the best opportunity to score in the half. The teams headed to the break with no score.
Out of the half, Tufts jumped on the attack and applied continued pressure on the Panther defense. The Jumbos only managed one shot in the first five minutes of the half which was a Rojas shot wide. After a Middlebury turnover attempting to clear, Lane found free space about 20-yards out and fired a shot directly at Grady. In the 51st minute, a cross by Daly found Tasker on the left post, but his header shot was also saved by the Panther goalkeeper. Junior Travis Van Brewer took a corner kick that forced Grady to make a save as it was bending towards the goal.
The pressure paid off for the Jumbos after a long throw-in by Daly down into the right corner. The ball came back up the line to Lane, who found Tasker in the middle of the field. He chipped a pass to junior Max Jacobs as he was crashing across the box and Jacobs fired a left-footed shot into the bottom right of the goal giving Tufts a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute.
Middlebury drew a foul outside the right of the 18-yard box with 23 minutes remaining in the half. The Drew Goulart free-kick was blocked away by the Jumbo defense. Another foul was called on the Jumbos, giving the Panthers a free kick. This one was from about 30 yards out and the Jumbos cleared it away.
Lane and the Jumbos soon earned an attacking zone throw-in. Lane sent the ball to the middle of box, looking to find a head. The ball was knocked down to Seigelstein who fired a shot through traffic and forced Grady to make a diving save to keep the deficit at one. Then following strong ball control by junior Mati Cano and Lane, the Jumbos were awarded with a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. The Trevorrow free-kick from the right side of the box would go long and out to the left side of the goal.
After the heavy Tufts pressure, Middlebury would even the score in the 79th minute before Braun won it for the Jumbos with his fifth goal of the season.
Kindermann tallied two saves in the win for Tufts, while Grady made nine saves on 11 Tufts shots on goal. The Jumbos outshot the Panthers by a 20-9 margin. Both teams earned four corner kicks.
Tufts also won its 2017 NESCAC title against Middlebury by a 1-0 score on a late goal by Rojas.