After four games on the road, the women’s soccer team will finally get to play in New Haven tonight, when Yale hosts Sacred Heart University at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
The Bulldogs (3-0-1) come off back to back shutout victories: 2-0 over Georgetown University and 1-0 over Loyola University Chicago. Yale spent practice Tuesday working on shooting, after scoring only one goal on 22 shots against the Loyola Ramblers Sunday. The Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-1-2) proved themselves worthy of Ivy League competition, tying Brown University 0-0 on Sept. 9.
“I can’t wait to play on our home field,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “Traditionally, we do very well at home.”
Yale was 7-3-2 at home last year. Last season, the Bulldogs defeated the Pioneers 1-0, outshooting Sacred Heart 15-9 at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
Playing at home also changes the nature of the game because of the size of Yale’s field. The Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium’s field is much larger than most of the venues the Elis have competed in this season.
“It’s more of a long distance game,” midfielder Mia Arakaki ’05 said. “There’s a lot more field to cover.”
Goalkeeper Sarah Walker ’05 has anchored the Bulldogs’ defense and has been virtually flawless so far this season, sporting a 0.5 goals-against average with three shutouts in four games. She has stopped 22 of the 24 shots she has faced.
“[Walker's] confidence is higher than it’s ever been,” Meredith said.
Defensively, along with captain Lee Anne Jasper ’04 and defender April Siuda ’06, the Elis secured solid contributions from Christina Huang ’07, who demonstrated the seamlessness of her transition to the college game by earning co-player of the game honors against Loyola on Sunday.
“[The freshmen's smooth transition] really helps the team, so we can all be on the same page right from the beginning,” Walker said.
Huang was not the only rookie to chip in over the weekend. Mimi Macauley ’07 scored the game winner against the Hoyas on Friday.
“I was definitely happy with [the play of the freshmen],” Meredith said.
Tonight, the Elis face a stingy defense in Sacred Heart, led by goalkeeper Leslie Konsig, who has relinquished one goal in four games this season.
“We’re usually better than Sacred Heart,” Walker said. “Hopefully, we’ll get our shooting on target.”
Not capitalizing on scoring chances against Loyola was disconcerting for the Bulldogs.
“I was encouraged by the fact that we were creating [more] chances, [but] it was getting a little frustrating,” Meredith said.
The Elis heavily focused on finishing plays yesterday in practice.
“[Shooting was] pretty much all we did,” Walker said.
The increase in scoring opportunities characterizes the developing bonds among both midfielders and forwards. At the start of the season, six starting vacancies had to be filled. Now, the picture is clearing, Meredith said.
With their Ivy League opener at Princeton just 10 days away, the importance shifts to strengthening team chemistry. During the Elis’ first several games, the key question was how players would adjust to their new roles, given major losses to graduation, Meredith said.
If the Bulldogs can continue their winning ways, that question may be answered with an exclamation point.