Men’s soccer defeats Tufts in penalty kicks, advances to NESCAC semifinals

This Sunday, men’s soccer will play Connecticut College on Cole Field. (Photo Courtesy of Sports Information.)

The second-seeded Ephs (6–1–9, 4–1–6 NESCAC) beat the seventh-seeded Jumbos (7–2–7, 3–2–6 NESCAC) at home, advancing to the semifinals of the NESCAC postseason tournament after winning four penalty kicks to Tufts’ three in a thrilling shootout. 

Regulation time was again not enough for the Ephs and the Jumbos, who tied their regular season matchup 2-2.

 In a game between two of the NESCAC’s two best defenses, it is no surprise that the respective backlines were dominant. Especially stalwart was Nick Boardman ’22.5, who seemed to win every battle, aerial and otherwise, that he contested. 

In the first half, Tufts moved the ball well, keeping and controlling it on the Ephs’ side of the field but creating no especially clear-cut chances. Both teams relied on lofted balls into the box and looked for their target men to play that crucial flick-on or for their strikers to pounce on that serendipitous second ball. Knowing their seasons were at stake, both teams put their all into every contested ball. The passion in this game was palpable. 

In the second half, the Ephs continued to threaten on the counterattack, while the Jumbos extended their control. In minute 76, Tufts forced a goal-line clearance off of their fifth corner kick of the half. Goalkeeper Ben Diffley ’24 came out to punch it away, but the ball shot straight up, and the Ephs scrambled to get it clear. On the subsequent Jumbo corner kick, Diffley came out and caught it cleanly, ending the threat for the moment. 

In minute 82, Diffley made what may have been the save of the season. A Jumbos striker found himself alone, about ten yards out from the goal, and fired a volley to the near post. Diffley flung himself down to parry it, and the Ephs cleared the ball upfield. A minute later, with the ball having never left the Ephs’ half, a Williams center back collided with Tufts midfielder Liam Gerken while trying to block his shot, resulting in a penalty kick for the Jumbos. Sean Traynor made no mistake from the spot, sending Diffley to the left and the ball down the middle, giving Tufts the lead at 1-0 with six minutes remaining. Following the goal, Tufts put all 11 players behind the ball on defense, and the Ephs tried to break them down. 

With 11 seconds left in the game, every Eph — including the goalkeeper — was up on the attack, and Cole Morriello ’26 took one of his trademark long throw-ins. Following an off-ball foul from the Jumbos, the Ephs were awarded a penalty of their own. Nathan Song ’22.5 coolly stepped up to the spot and put a shot into the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1 and sending the quarterfinal into overtime. 

Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams exchanging periods of dominance, both carving out good chances, both expending immense defensive effort to keep it even. With 15 seconds left, the Jumbos were awarded a corner kick and came closest to scoring, forcing an overhead kick clearance. Diffley’s net remained unblemished, and the game went to penalties. 

The Jumbos’ goalie Erik Lauta saved the Ephs’ first penalty and, with the Ephs unable to capitalize, Tufts started things with a 1-0 advantage. 

Subsequent goals from both sides — including Henry Osborn’s ’22.5 effort that snuck it in off the post — made it 2-2, with Jumbos goalscorer Traynor back at the spot due to shoot. Diffley was not to be beaten twice by Traynor and saved Tufts’ third penalty to keep it tied. 

Song then converted his second penalty of the day, giving the Ephs the edge at 3-2 and putting the pressure back on Tufts. 

Tate Michelson ’25 sent Lauta the wrong way, and the final Tufts kick-taker sent his effort over the crossbar, cementing the Ephs’ victory in the 4-3 shootout and sparking celebrations in the stands and on the field. 

Head Men’s Soccer Coach Steffen Siebert summarized his thoughts on the showing. “What a fantastic game from both sides today,” he said. “[I’m] so proud of the team believing until the very end. Now we look forward to hosting the semi-finals next week on Cole Field.” 

Williams will host the NESCAC Championship semifinals and finals on Cole Field this weekend, where the Ephs will face Connecticut College on Saturday at 11 a.m. Middlebury and Hamilton will square off at 1:30 p.m. The NESCAC title tilt is slated for 12 p.m. on Sunday. Connecticut College (7–5–4, 3–5–2 NESCAC) was the lone team this season to defeat Williams at home. On Oct. 8, Camels forward Matt Scaffone was assisted by midfielder Maurice Pigola to tally the game’s only goal at 54:47. Camels goalie Peter Silvester stopped all eight shots that the Ephs fired on the frame. Since that loss, the Ephs have won two games and tied four, while the Camels have gone 2–3–1.