The University of North Carolina Tar Heels are ranked No. 1 in the country in all three of the major NCAA women’s soccer polls. They have won all 10 of their games — including a 1-0 defeat of Yale Sept. 4 — by the obscene combined score of 42-3.
The Fairfield Stags are not the UNC Tar Heels. Mary Kuder ’08 probably knows this. But both the Yale sophomore midfielder and her teammates plan not to underestimate any team any time soon.
“I know very little about East Coast teams,” Kuder said. “I guess I’ll go in assuming they have the talent of UNC because that’s the inspiration I need to work my hardest.”
On the heels of their biggest win of the season thus far — a 2-1 victory over defending league champion Princeton — the 24th ranked Elis (7-2, 1-0 Ivy) return to action today against Fairfield (3-3-1). The match-up is Yale’s second-to-last non-conference game and will be followed by three straight Saturdays of Ivy League play.
Several Bulldogs said Saturday’s win opens the door for complacency in a non-conference game, but that the team is prepared to maintain a high level of competition.
“Coming off of a win like this can be scary sometimes, as the next game might not seem as exciting in proportion,” forward Emma Whitfield ’09 said. “But our team is so focused on our season, and the rest of the games ahead of us, that I know we’ll continue to keep playing to our level.”
While the Bulldogs came out on top Saturday, team members said there were elements of their game that needed to be fixed. Whitfield said the team was planning to work on finishing shots on goal, and Kuder said the team would try to return to their possession style of play, something that fell apart at times against the Tigers. Saturday’s contest marked the first time since the loss to UNC that the Elis were outshot, 14-9.
The most important fine-tuning the Bulldogs will do on the field today is mental. The Stag offense has managed only six goals in seven contests, and their scoring leader boasts only five points, on two goals and an assist.
The Elis recognize that they are facing themselves more than Fairfield tonight.
“Tomorrow, we feel, is a test of our mental capabilities to come off of a high that we have from Princeton and translate it to a trivial game that is outside the Ivy League,” goalie Susan Starr ’08 said. “We are so focused on winning the Ivy League that we don’t want setbacks … We want to get it done with, with a win, and move on to focus on Harvard.”
The Bulldogs may also have to deal with some injuries. Midfielder Hayley Zevenbergen ’09 has a hip flexor injury and team scoring leader midfielder Crysti Howser ’09 was forced to leave the Princeton game with a sprained ankle. Head coach Rudy Meredith said neither will play tomorrow but hopes to have both players back for Saturday’s match-up against Harvard.
Again, Fairfield is not UNC. But the Bulldogs want to see the Tar Heels again come November, and that road goes through the Stags.
“We talk about things we want to do,” Meredith said. “We’re probably two games from the school record for consecutive wins. In the long term, if we keep winning, we might get to host a tournament game. We have a lot of things to play for, and we want to keep rolling.”