The wait is finally over.
On a perfect fall night, the men’s soccer team (1-6-0) chalked one up in the win column. Bolstered by two first-half goals by forward Gage Hills ’07, the Elis dominated Fairfield 3-1 in front of a home crowd eager for a Bulldog victory.
After dropping its first six games, Yale looked strong throughout last night’s contest, using strong runs and crisp passes to take advantage of the overmatched Stags. It was an important win for the Elis, who kick off Ivy League play this weekend against Harvard in Boston.
The importance of his team’s first win was not lost on Yale head coach Brian Tompkins.
“We needed to stop the negative momentum that was starting to build up,” he said. “We needed to create some positive momentum heading into Ivy League play, and we did that tonight.”
Much of that momentum took the form of Hills, who undoubtedly was the key component in the Eli offense last night.
Deadlocked for most of the first half, it was in the game’s 37th minute that Hills struck for the first time. Quickly gathering a through ball from midfielder Ryan Morrissey ’06, a diving Hills nailed the shot past Fairfield goalkeeper Andrew Frankel. The Stags pleaded fruitlessly for an offsides call and the Bulldogs had themselves a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish.
Hills, however, was not done. A little over five minutes later, Hills beat his mark and handled a pass from forward Andrew Dealy ’05. With just Frankel standing between him and the goal, Hills struck a well-placed shot past Frankel into the lower left-hand side of the net.
With that, Hills had his first two goals of the season and gave his team a 2-0 lead before halftime.
The two scores brought back some fond memories for the California native.
“It felt good to score again,” Hills said. “I use to score a lot in high school.”
The second half saw the Bulldogs control play as the Stags desperately tried to play catch-up. Fairfield’s hopes were dashed in the game’s 84th minute when forward Alex Munns ’07 slipped a shot past Frankel to give the Bulldogs an insurmountable 3-0 advantage with a little over five minutes to play.
Tompkins said he was very happy with his team’s offensive performance, especially that of Hills.
“[Hills] played very well in Oklahoma [last weekend],” Tompkins said. “Unfortunately, he did not score in any of those games. He did a really good job on both his goals tonight.”
The defense played solidly throughout the game as well. In the game’s 23rd minute, Fairfield midfielder Alex Cunliffe drilled a shot from 25 yards out that goalkeeper Geoff Hollington ’05 dove to save. Hollington’s play helped keep the game tied and eased the burden for the rest of the defense.
Hollington also made a key save in the game’s 42nd minute that would have cut the Bulldogs’ lead to one before halftime.
One of the defense’s few mistakes was the overpursuit of a free kick by Hollington that enabled Fairfield forward Matt Wilner to ruin the shutout with 30 seconds to play.
“[Hollington] made some important stops in the first half,” Tompkins said. “I think he gambled a little bit in the game’s final minute, but it was more an error of enthusiasm.”
In the end, though, a win is a win and the Elis were more than willing to take it.
“Things seemed to come together today,” Hills said. “We’ve just been having these lapses, but we finished our opportunities early. Tonight was exactly what we needed.”