MEDFORD – The Tufts University men's soccer team has started their national championship defense with a perfect 7-0-0 record overall and a 3-0-0 record in NESCAC play this fall. The Jumbos are the top-ranked team in the United Soccer Coaches Division III poll.
Head Coach Josh Shapiro's squad has eight seniors on it, which is the largest senior class in his tenure. Gavin Tasker is one of them and was elected a co-captain this season. The midfielder has started all seven games and applies pressure to opposing defenses with his speed, usually darting down the left wing. Tasker tallied a goal in the season-opener against Framingham State and has added four assists.
The Concord, Massachusetts resident has played in 69 games over his career, starting 53 of them. He has found the back of the goal 15 times and added 11 assists for 41 points in his career. Last season, he tallied the eventual game-winner against Rochester in the NCAA "Final Four" to push Tufts into the national final. He also scored the lone goal in Tufts' 1-0 win over Stevens in its NCAA opener. He also saw action in all 22 games of the 2016 National Champion team.
Tasker was named a D3soccer.com All-American, a United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American, to the United Soccer Coaches All-Region first team, and to All-NESCAC first team last year.
A quantitative economics major with a grade point average above 3.60, Tasker is a Dean's List student who has earned Academic All-NESCAC honors during his career. He recently took time out of his busy schedule to check in with GoTuftsJumbos.com ...
Q: How did soccer become the sport you would end up playing in college?
GT: From as early as I can remember, I've always enjoyed playing soccer. I decided early on in my soccer career that I wanted to play soccer in college, and I knew I would have to work hard to achieve that goal.
Q: What were the deciding factors in choosing Tufts?
GT: When I started the process of looking at colleges, I was probably the most familiar with Tufts, as a local kid from Lincoln, Mass. I had heard great things from multiple club and high school coaches about Coach Shapiro and Coach Harkin, the assistant coach (at the time). But it was when I finally met the players and coaches on campus that I became convinced Tufts was the right school and team for me. I was also hoping to be close to my high school girlfriend, but things did not work out.
Q: What has been done to help continue the team's success going forward?
GT: During our national championship celebration last year, Sterling Weatherbie, a senior co-captain, said in a speech, "This team is a wagon, keep it rolling fellas.". While I think he was a man of simple words, he embodied our confidence in the team's success going forward. I believe Coach Shapiro's approach to recruiting and the fact that our program is attracting some of the best talent in the country for DIII schools is really a key factor to our continued success. It's these incredibly talented younger guys who will enable us to keep pushing the program forward and upward.
Q: You have been part of two national championship teams (2016 and 2018). What have those experiences been like?
GT: Being part of a team that won a national championship in my freshman year (2016) was an incredible experience, although at the time I really wasn't able to fully appreciate the significance of the moment. Last year's national championship win was a completely different experience for me. As a more experienced player, you begin to realize and appreciate the significance. Last year's championship was my favorite because I was able to share the experience and celebrate it with some of my best friends both on and off the field.
Q: Following last season's penalty-kicks loss to Colby in the conference quarterfinals, what does this team need to do to win a league title?
GT: I stopped taking PKs so that should help.
Q: Do you and the team feel any pressure being ranked the #1 team in Division III men's soccer?
GT: There's always an added level of pressure being ranked #1. Over the years, this team has gotten better at turning that pressure into a responsibility to bring our "A" game to every match, regardless of the opponent. I've always had the mentality that pressure is a source of motivation. It challenges us to do our best.
Q: What are your goals for after graduation?
GT: The goal right now is to graduate.
Q: What is your favorite professional sport? Who is your favorite professional team and athlete?
GT: Soccer. Manchester United. Joey Chestnut.
Q: When you aren't playing soccer, what are some of your favorite activities?
GT: On Saturday mornings, my friends and I have a tradition of watching the Premier League together. Unfortunately, many of my friends have recently started supporting other teams - Man City, Liverpool. As a loyal Man United fan from the beginning, this has put a strain on all of us.
Q: If you could travel to any place in the world, where would it be and why?
GT: I would go to Provincetown on July 4th. They have nice fireworks. It's the simple things in life that keep me going.
Tasker and the Jumbos host Trinity College in a NESCAC game at Bello Field this Saturday (Oct. 5) with a 2:30 pm start.