Ali Cobbett ’03 knows a thing or two about chances.
“All of my life, I’ve been told that when you get chances, you have to score,” she said.
Cobbett and the rest of the women’s soccer team had plenty of chances Saturday against No. 21 Princeton and their inability to capitalize on them proved costly as the Bulldogs dropped their conference opener to the Tigers, 2-0.
In a game characterized by two very different halves, Yale (1-1-1, 0-1-1 Ivy) emerged strong, outplaying the Tigers (2-0-0, 1-0-0 Ivy).
“We came out with a lot of confidence, drive and passion,” said Lee Ann Jasper ’04. “We wanted it more.”
The offense, paced by a potent mix of youth and experience in Chandra King ’03 and Jamie Ortega ’06, relentlessly pushed and pressured the Princeton defense. But despite several opportunities, Yale could not produce a goal.
At 21:42, Cobbett, with some fancy footwork that left her an opening, unloaded a bullet that bounced off the crossbar. Midfielder Eleni Benson ’05 tracked down the rebound and ripped it right over the bar.
“The first half, we had more possession, more chances on goal,” said Cobbett, an All-Ivy First Team selection who led the team in scoring last year. “We kept the ball in their half of the field. We were the better team.”
After 45 minutes, the score remained 0-0, but the Bulldogs were pleased with their play.
“I just thought we were better in the first half,” Benson said. “Our three-forward game was able to exploit their defense and we were able to connect with our passes. At halftime, I thought we were going to win.”
Though perhaps the better team heading into halftime, the missed scoring opportunities would catch up to the Bulldogs and allow the Tigers to get their act together.
Midway through the second half Princeton would do what Yale was unable to do — finish. At 68:10, Janine Willis lofted a corner kick that teammate Maria Gallagher headed into the upper left corner of the goal, just beyond the reach of Yale goalie Lindsay Sabel ’03.
“The first goal was very demoralizing,” Jasper said. “It’s upsetting when you are not getting the results and they’re lucky.”
The up-tempo, pinball-like play gradually wore Yale down.
“The game was a lot quicker than we’ve played before. It was back-and-forth, intense soccer,” Cobbett said.
Meanwhile, Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was busy on the sidelines, constantly inserting the fresh legs that would outrun and outlast the Bulldogs.
“Princeton has a deep bench and a lot of talent,” Cobbett. “They were always fresh and their subs were just as good, or better in some cases.”
Yale’s limited bench, rendered shallow by injuries, left several starters to endure the full 90 minutes of play. Though fitness was the primary focus in the preseason and Yale was able to stick with La Salle in a double-overtime game earlier in the season, Princeton’s athleticism was too much for the Bulldogs.
The Tigers secured their lead in the 80th minute when Kristina Fontanez ’05 dumped a pass from Rochelle Willis ’05 into the goal past an onrushing Sabel.
“We didn’t get outplayed. We just lost,” said Cobbett. “Everyone played so well. No one left the field discouraged.”
Despite the disheartening loss, the team will look to the high level of play as a source of motivation and inspiration in its pursuit of its season-long goal: to earn a bid to the NCAAs.
The Lady Bulldogs now host a series of non-conference games at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. Tuesday, the team takes on Holy Cross at 7 p.m., followed by Hartford on Saturday at 7 p.m.