For the first time in its history, the Yale women’s soccer team will compete for the National Collegiate Athletic Association title this fall. The team learned Monday that it earned one of 35 at-large bids to the 64-team tournament and will face No. 20 Villanova in Pennsylvania on Friday.
With the announcement, the soccer team joins the field hockey team, which has worked its way into playoff contention, in earning itself the chance at a postseason. And the timing could not be better: This year, the soccer team celebrates its 25th anniversary and Title IX, the 1972 law that required equal opportunity in academics and athletics for men and women, celebrates its 30th.
That women’s athletics are doing so well this year in particular helps to show that Yale has committed itself to providing such opportunities across gender lines.
And now thanks to coach Rudy Meredith and the Elis, Yalies once again will have an NCAA tournament to follow in the newspaper and, if things go well, one to watch on television. The last time students had the chance to see Yale soccer on prime time was in 1999, when the men’s team won a shot at the NCAA title.
Prospects were looking bleak over the weekend when the team lost what was thought to be a berth-determining game to Brown. The Bears, who had not won a league game all season, ended the Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak with a 2-0 victory and effectively crushed any hopes for an NCAA bid.
The team gathered nevertheless with Athletics Director Tom Beckett at Eli’s on Whitney in Hamden to watch the brackets revealed live on ESPNNEWS Monday afternoon. Shocked by the announcement, the team went directly from the restaurant to practice — and because of the excitement, they barely felt the suicides and sprints they ran, some players said.
It is largely because of this year’s senior class that the Bulldogs have made it this far. Captain Ali Cobbett ’03, who had not scored a single goal for Yale before her junior year, scored 10 goals in three games last year and has proven a leader for the squad. Lauren Gillies ’03 has been a big boost and emerged as one of the team’s true forwards. Over four years, the Class of 2003 has seen only one member leave the team, and the remaining seven should be commended for their dedication.
The men’s soccer team too has made an impressive showing this year, rallying to a five-game winning streak at the end of September and showing early promise for an Ivy title. It was the team’s best start since 1991. And though fortune might have moved the title out of reach in October, it is clear this has been a noteworthy season for both soccer teams.
Yale soccer has proven itself a sport to watch this fall. Hopefully, the teams’ performances will encourage more students to attend home games. And even if few are able to make the trek to Villanova on Friday, all should congratulate the Yale women’s soccer team on a great season and wish them luck in the NCAAs.