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Let The Games Begin!

Let The Games Begin!Coming off a season-opening 20-0 victory over Hamilton, Tufts' football team looks to continue its winning ways at Homecoming.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.27.02] With last season's 4-0 start still fresh in his mind, Tufts' head football coach Bill Samko has high expectations for this year's squad. With a decisive 20-0 shutout over Hamilton, Samko's team may have the right combination of skill and experience to win a spot at the top of the conference.

"With help from [four standout players] and 12 other returning starters, Tufts should once again be a factor in the New England Small Colleges Athletic Conference [NESCAC] race," reported The Boston Globe. "Jumbos finished 6-2 last year and placed third in the conference after a 4-0 start. The only blemishes were consecutive 4-point losses to undefeated league champion Williams (8-0) and runner-up Amherst (7-1). Wins against Colby and Middlebury closed the season."

This year's team appears to be picking up where they left off last fall.

Led by quarterback Scott Treacy, wide receiver Matt Cerne, outside linebacker/defensive end Brian Burbank and noseguard Matt Keller, the Jumbos are taking their 1-0 start into Homecoming weekend, where they will face the 0-1 Bates team.

Tufts' defense - which was ranked 4th in the nation last year - has already proven to be critical to the team's success.

"We were pretty good on defense last year," Samko told The Boston Herald. "Our secondary is definitely a strength. Evan Zupancic has 14 career interceptions and is one shy of the school record and Mark Tilki was All-East on special teams after averaging 23.2 yards-per-kickoff return. So we have four or five guys in the secondary that are standouts."

Burbank and Keller are also big assets to the team.

"I love Brian Burbank," Samko told the Globe of the senior - who is one of 17 engineering majors on the team. "That kid works. He's a great student. He is a good football player."

Keller is also a major contributor.

"He's a tough, hard-nosed kid," Samko told the newspaper. "He is one of the hardest workers we have here. He and Burbank are guys you can trust."

But defense alone won't be enough to fend off some of the NESCAC's most potent teams.

Samko says the return of receiver Matt Cerne - who missed six games last year with an injury - will provide a boost to Tufts' offense.

"It was tough sitting out, especially [during] a great season," Cerne told the Globe. "I'm going to do everything I can. We'll see how it unfolds."

Samko has high hopes.

"Now that Matt's back, I think we'll be a little bit more balanced," Samko told the Globe. "He's a great athlete. He's capable of generating big plays."

So is quarterback Scott Treacy.

"He did a terrific job for us last year," Samko told the Herald.

Samko said the key to the team's success will be remaining healthy throughout the season.

"We need to stay healthy, as everybody does," he told the Globe. "If we do, we think we can be competitive."

Meanwhile - boosted by its best start since 1999 -- the men's soccer team enters its Homecoming match against Bates with a 4-0 record. Ranked No. 1 in the region and No. 6 in the country by the latest National Soccer Coaches Association poll, the team is on pace to replicate its 5-0 start in 1999.

"We haven't played our best, necessarily, but we've had the results and our team chemistry has a lot to do with it," head coach Ralph Ferrigno told the Globe.

The women's soccer team - which has posted a 2-2 record this season - is entering Homecoming on the momentum of its 1-0 win against No. 2-ranked Amherst. The team was led by the play of sophomore transfer Jen Baldwin, who earned NESCAC Player of the Week honors following the win.

"She's such a smart player," Tufts head coach Martha Whiting told the Globe. "She's fast and has a great shot and all that, but more than anything, she knows what to do and how to get out of trouble and score."

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