Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Tufts University men's soccer team won its third NCAA Championship in the last five years with a 2-1 victory over Calvin College at UNCG Stadium in Greensboro, N.C.
The Jumbos became the fifth program in NCAA Division III history to win three national championships, all under head coach Josh Shapiro. Tufts built a 2-0 lead, but Calvin scored on a penalty kick in the 50th minute to cut the lead in half and the Jumbos withstood the Knights' offensive pressure to post the victory and finish the season unbeaten (18-0-3).
Tufts scored two minutes into the game to grab a 1-0 lead. Junior Brett Rojas back-heeled a pass to sophomore Travis Van Brewer, who 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 Calvin Aroh, whose shot deflected off a defender and went in.
Calvin (22-2-0) would have an edge in possession in the first half, but the Jumbos were able to contain the Knights' scoring chances. Calvin had its first shot 10 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 19 minutes on the clock, but Jumbo senior goalie Conner Mieth made the save.
Not tested much in any of Tufts' four previous NCAA games, Mieth was sharp finishing with five saves. Calvin came into the weekend as the top-ranked scoring team in Division III, averaging 4.14 goals per game. The Knights defeated Chicago, 4-1, in the 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.
Calvin goalie Chris Morrish (three saves) denied a strong Tufts chance with 16:45 on the clock. Tasker sent the ball to Joe Braun in the middle, and he got it over to Zach Lane for a wide-open shot. However, Morrish was able to make the save.
Shortly after, Daly heaved a throw-in into the goal area and Lane headed it in off a bounce and past Morrish to give the Jumbos a 2-0 lead in the 30th minute.
Tufts took its 2-0 lead into halftime. Calvin had slight advantages in shots (5-4) and corners (3-2) after 45 minutes.
Calvin cut the lead to 2-1 early in the second half after the Jumbos were whistled for a penalty in the box and a penalty kick was granted. Knights junior Hunter Olson scored with his shot into right side of the net.
In Tufts' next possession a Lane header was saved by Morrish, as was a shot by Braun. However, the Knights held 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 15 seconds left in regulation to preserve the win for the Jumbos.
The Knights nearly doubled Tufts in shots, 13-7, and also had a 6-4 advantage in corners for the 90 minutes.
Braun, who scored a goal with two assists in the Jumbos' 3-1 NCAA semifinal victory over Rochester, was named as the weekend's Most Outstanding Player. Lane, Mieth, Tasker, and Weatherbie were named to the All-Tournament Team.
NOTES: The game was a rematch of the 2016 NCAA Final that Tufts won against Calvin 1-0 in double-overtime. The Jumbos' 2014 NCAA Championship came in a 4-2 victory against Wheaton (Ill.). In its eighth tournament appearance overall, and sixth in the last seven years, Tufts is 21-5-2 (.768) in NCAA Tournament games. This is the 10th overall 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. A NESCAC team has won the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer title four times in the last five years.