After being upstaged Wednesday at Rutgers University (6-3) 15-12, the Elis (7-3, 1-1 Ivy) are hoping for an upset of their own this Saturday when they face defending national champion Princeton (6-3, 2-0) at home.
“This [loss] is going to be a reality check for us,” midfielder Miles Whitman ’04 said. “I’m sure it will be on the back of our minds in the next couple of days and if anything it will only push us harder in practice this week as we prepare against Princeton.”
Rutgers Stadium was transformed into a shooting range during Wednesday’s contest, as each team tried to outgun the other. But in the end, despite a five-goal outing for Whitman and a hat trick from attack Sarah Queener ’03, Yale was the first to run out of ammunition.
Rutgers goalkeeper Lyndsey Feldman anchored the Scarlet Knights’ defense with a career-high 18 saves on the day.
“Our shooting was off and we might have been putting the shots where she [Feldman] could get to them,” midfielder Kati Sargent ’05 said. “Not to take anything away from what she did, but the 18 saves may have been just as much an indication of our shooting as it was of her goaltending.”
Yale came out firing, scoring three consecutive goals in the opening minutes of the game. Whitman drew first blood, netting an unassisted goal only 6:06 into the game. Less than 30 seconds later, Queener found the back of the net again, giving Yale a 2-0 lead. At the eight minute mark, Clarissa Clarke ’03 completed Yale’s hat trick, scoring off an assist from midfield Ali Cobbett ’03.
But Yale’s opening onslaught did not faze Rutgers. With two quick goals from Cristina Curiale and Jessica Mosey, the Scarlet Knights were within one with 19:19 left in the first half.
Yale responded to Rutgers’ rebuttal, tallying two more goals to go ahead 5-2. The Bulldogs’ first response came seven seconds after Mosey’s score, when Queener got through Feldman for an unassisted goal. Less than a minute later, Whitman capitalized on a free-position opportunity to nab her second score of the day.
But once again Rutgers answered the bugle call, this time in decisive fashion. Over the next nine minutes, the Scarlet Knights scored five unanswered goals for a 7-5 lead with 8:21 in the half. Rutgers’ scoring barrage began with a Cali Wojdyla free position goal with 18:01 left in the half and ended when Kristin Checksfield fed the ball off the draw to Kate Slotman for a score.
“They [Rutgers] readjusted for the draw,” Sargent said. “We scored a lot of quick ones off the draw in the beginning. After they readjusted it became an equal battle for the draw and they had more looks at the net. It took our defense a little while to figure out how to play their offense. During that stretch, we were making mistakes all over the field and they were able to capitalize on it.”
The two teams traded goals for the remainder of the half, with Rutgers leading 9-8 at the intermission.
Continuing its upstart performance in the second half, Rutgers scored the first two goals of the second frame, extending the lead to three, 11-8. Slotman scored on a solo shot 7:59 into the second half followed by a Curiale free-position goal two minutes later. The Rutgers surge unnerved the Bulldogs and the Elis never recovered.
“We just didn’t make the changes that we needed to in the second half,” Sargent said. “They came out strong and put us on our heels a little bit and we never recovered from that initial shock. It’s not so much a psychology thing; we knew we could beat them. If anything it’s harder to come back against a team that is better than you.”
Yale will need to turn Wednesday’s loss into fuel for Saturday’s contest against No. 5 Princeton. Heading into Wednesday night’s game against Temple, the defending national champions have won five straight. Among these is a 9-2 win on April 4 at No. 7 Cornell and a 13-11 double overtime decision over No. 6 Georgetown on March 28. Earlier this season, Princeton upset top-ranked Loyola 9-8 in a triple-overtime marathon.
During their win streak, the Tigers have outscored their opponents by an average 6.6 goals per game. The Princeton defense has been equally impressive, holding the top scoring team in the Ivy League, Cornell, to only two scores.
With Princeton on a tear and Yale coming off an upset loss to Rutgers, the Elis will have to steel themselves mentally for this weekend.
“In previous years, this [the loss to Rutgers] may have been something difficult to over come,” Whitman said. “We’ve played so well and we’ve played so well together this season that I don’t think this loss will effect us too much for this weekend.”
Even if the Elis are able to put the loss behind them, they will have their work cut out for them on Saturday. As a team, Princeton has outplayed its opponents on almost every front this season. The Tigers are outshooting the competition 224-174 and outscoring them 99-67. On defense, Princeton has forced more turnovers than its opponents by a margin of 120-71.
Individually, last year’s First Team All-American selection Theresa Sherry leads the Tigers with 24 goals on the year.
“We’re going to prepare really hard,” Sargent said. “At this point we have nothing to lose. We are the underdogs and they’re the ones on the pedestal. That takes a lot of pressure off us to win, and I’m not sure that’s not a great place for us to be.”