The men’s soccer team hopes its roller coaster ride of a season has passed its last drop.
The Bulldogs (6-10, 3-3 Ivy) take the field for the final time this season tomorrow afternoon at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. This weekend’s challengers are the Tigers (8-4-4, 3-1-2), who need the win to have a chance at the Ivy League title. The Bulldogs are anxious to end their season with a strong showing after an up-and-down season which included an 0-6 start, a mid-season 4-0 run to place them atop the Ivy standings, and then a two-game losing streak to knock them out of title contention. The seniors are looking at the Princeton game as one last chance to earn pride and respect for Old Blue.
“We obviously aren’t competing for the Ivy League title, but we can still pull together and play a good game,” Yale captain Ryan Raybould ’05 said. “It’s a good game for us to establish consistency for next year and also to end the season on a good note.”
The Elis, who downed Princeton 2-0, in last season’s final game, will face stiff competition this year. Led by forward Darren Spicer, the Tigers boast an exceptionally strong offensive team. Spicer ranks first in the Ivy League this season in goals and points, with 12 and 25, respectively.
“Spicer has been an important guy for our attack,” Princeton head coach Jim Barlow said. “He works really hard and he’s been dangerous around the goal. He’s found a way to create a lot of opportunities for himself.”
A seasoned Yale defense will counter the Tigers’ attack. Anchored by Jake Miller ’07 and Jon Skalecki ’06, the back four have given up only three goals in the Elis’ last six games. Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said the key to shutting down the Tigers lies in finding a way to contain Spicer.
“Darren Spicer has had a great season,” Tompkins said. “He’s very quick, he’s very dangerous and he has a knack for scoring goals. He clearly is going to be the focal point and we need to do a good job of neutralizing him.”
But despite Spicer’s skill, Barlow knows it will be difficult to score against the Eli backfield.
“It won’t be easy against Yale’s defense,” he said. “We know they’ve only given away a couple goals in the last six games, and we know its going to be a tough job.”
The Tigers’ defense is not to be taken lightly either. A young team, Princeton starts two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior in the back. The defense is led by goalkeeper Erik White, who is tied for first in the Ivy League with six shutouts on the season. White, a senior, brings leadership to the backfield and has helped the young Tigers develop into a defensive force.
The Elis will depend on forwards Lindsey Williams ’05 and Andrew Dealy ’05, and Raybould to energize their offensive efforts. Saturday’s game will be the last time the trio competes together in blue and white, and they hope to culminate their past four years with a win.
“We want our seniors to leave here with a performance worthy of the commitment and the contribution that they’ve made over the last four years,” Tompkins said. “There are many reasons we want to win. First of all, there’s pride and self-respect. Regardless of whatever the situation is during the season, we’re always proud to represent our University and have a chance to compete for Yale. The guys are excited to play and end the season in a different fashion than they started it.”