SWARTHMORE, Pa. – The Connecticut College men's soccer team saw its dream season come to an end by falling to No. 5 Tufts, 3-1, in the NCAA Tournament "Elite 8" Round at Swarthmore College's Clothier Field on Sunday afternoon.
Tufts (18-2-2) got on the scoreboard in the blink of an eye following a failed clear attempt by the Camel defense. An uncharacteristic breakdown in the middle of the back line opened the door for Zach Lane to finish a pass from Brett Rojas from the penalty circle just 1:13 into the match.
After a slow start, the Camels began penetrating into their offensive third and got their first shot in the 19th minute. Senior Matt Butera (Westfield, Mass.) sent a ball in from the left, and sophomore Augie Djerdjaj (Mahopac, N.Y.) battled through the intense pressure of the Jumbo defense to send a ball in from just outside the six-yard box. Butera also had a good look off a feed from junior Liam Noonan (Malibu, Calif.) which went wide five minutes later.
The Jumbos nearly doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Ian Daly unleashed a shot from the top of the box that was headed towards the left post. Junior AJ Marcucci (West Chester, Pa.) made a diving stop that came to the foot of Ian Daly, but the ensuing one-timed shot sailed high and over the crossbar. The teams eventually headed into the break with the Jumbos clinging to a 1-0 lead.
The second half began just like the first one with the Jumbos striking early. Travis Van Brewer took a corner kick from the right side and sent a ball that dangerously sliced into the six-yard box through traffic, and Daly was in the right place to tap it in less than four minutes into the frame.
Despite falling further behind, Connecticut College continued to apply pressure and create scoring opportunities. Djerdjaj curled a shot from the same spot as Daly did in the first half, but the ball rattled off the upper left post where it meets the crossbar in the 53rd minute.
Shortly after the miss by Djerdjaj, the Jumbos added a third goal in the 58th minute to provide them with all of the insurance they would need to come away with the victory. Gavin Tasker received a through ball and made a pass from the left endline that found the foot of Lane.
Noonan found the back of the net in the 79th minute to put the Camels on the board, but the three-goal deficit in the late stages would still prove to be too much for the team to overcome. The Jumbos burned the clock while sustaining possession after the kickoff en route to winning their fourth match of the tournament.
Erich Kindermann picked up the shutout victory by making one save for Tufts, which outshot the Camels by a 17-6 margin and had a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. Marcucci suffered the loss and turned away five Jumbo shots.
The setback ended the best season in program history as well as one of the most successful postseason runs ever by any Connecticut College team. This year's Camel men's soccer squad became the fourth to advance to the "Sweet 16" round of the NCAA Tournament as well as the third to make it far as the "Elite 8" in an NCAA Tournament. The 1998 women's soccer team and the 1998-99 men's basketball program previously advanced to the national quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Furthermore, the men's soccer program became the institution's first to advance to three straight NCAA Tournaments. The Camels previously fell in the opening round in 2017 and advanced to the second round in 2018 before taking another step forward this fall.
Connecticut College (13-4-3) graduates five seniors and is slated to return more than 25 letterwinners next season.