They are new, young and inexperienced, but they are good.
With unwavering tenacity and contagious enthusiasm, the Class of 2009 has made its presence felt on the playing fields this fall. Not only have they adapted well to new teams, atmospheres and a higher level of play; in many cases, rookies have become leaders on their respective squads.
The freshman impact has been significant on the men’s soccer team, which has seen five of its newcomers play in the starting lineup and enjoy substantial playing time. Midfielder Jon Carlos ’09 and forward Liam Leonard ’09 have been formally recognized for their fine play as Ivy League Rookie of the Week honorees.
Head coach Brian Tompkins said he has been very pleased with the freshman class thus far.
“Freshmen have been a major part of the team’s success,” he said. “They bring a high level of talent and enthusiasm and provide a good balance of hard work and attentiveness.”
Nick Franchot ’07, a defender and midfielder, said this year’s nine freshmen made an immediate impact. Although the team gained two goalies and a walk-on last year, Franchot said the quality of the freshmen field players this year has done a lot for the team.
“The impact they’ve made is really a testament to their skill and maturity,” Franchot said.
Franchot noted, however, that he does not think it is fair to compare the classes of 2008 and 2009 because of the difference in total class size.
But men’s soccer midfielder Evan Stone ’07 said he thinks Yale coaches recruited for the Class of 2009 more heavily than in past years because they knew they had more positions to fill than they did last year.
Women’s soccer has also received a noteworthy boost from the freshman class. Four different players have been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week, and midfielder Crysti Howser ’09 has earned the honor three times. The team clinched its first Ivy League title since 1992 with a win over Brown on Saturday. Appropriately enough, Howser and forward Emma Whitfield ’09 — the team’s first and second-leading scorers, respectively — both notched goals in the 3-0 victory.
Upperclassmen on the team said they recognize the important role freshmen have played in the team’s success.
“The freshmen this year have been incredible,” midfielder Lindsey Weening ’06 said. “We owe them a lot for adjusting immediately and contributing to the team. They really step up when they need to.”
Newcomers have flourished not only on the field, but also on the court. The women’s tennis team has seen five freshmen complement its six returnees, and strong rookie performances have impressed head coach Katie Granson all season.
“They have made a huge impact on our team,” Granson said. “I have been impressed with their level of talent and maturity. They respond very well in pressure situations.”
Janet Kim ’09 and Ashley Miles ’09 picked up two wins each this past weekend at the Brown Classic — Kim at one singles and Miles at four singles.
Aside from racking up wins for their teams, freshmen on varsity teams said they have adjusted well to their new collegiate environment.
Whitfield said difficult changes have been moderated by encouraging teammates.
“There is definitely a huge difference between high school and college soccer,” Whitfield said. “The game is faster and a lot more intense, but the upperclassmen have really helped us a lot. The team has been very welcoming and incredibly nice.”
Freshmen on several teams said the switch from high school to college sports has been facilitated by their teammates.
“It really wasn’t a hard transition,” Kim said. “All the girls were really nice and supported us completely.”
Talented freshmen offer numerous benefits to any team, but their presence can sometimes pose problems. Relationships between first-year players and veterans can be tense, and coaches can have difficulty distributing playing time. But players said this is usually not the case at Yale.
“I can see how that would be possible on a lot of teams, but we expect freshmen to play well,” Stone said. “The freshmen are very respectful and know that they have to earn respect in return. They gelled in right away.”
Howser said she was pleased with the way the team accepted the freshmen.
“Everyone was very supportive and doesn’t really think a lot about who is playing where,” Howser said. “We’re a tight-knit group, and our main goal was just to win the Ivy League, regardless of who plays. We’ve really bonded well as a team.”
As for playing time, coaches said minutes are based on who is playing well and who can best fill a particular role. Women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith, whose team finished with a 13-3-1 overall record and earned the Ivy League’s automatic berth to the NCAA College Cup, is both blessed and cursed with the responsibility of having to balance many gifted players.
“It’s really more about talent than seniority,” Meredith said. “Our team is all about winning, and if freshmen are helping us win, then they’re going to play. I think the success we’ve had comes from getting production out of every class.”
Tompkins said he has a similar attitude toward the division of playing time.
“We have an environment in which everyone is expected to compete for time on the field,” Tompkins said. “It is determined by who would most effectively fill a given role on a given day. Even if it’s not always easy for upperclassmen, I think they have the character and leadership to recognize this and know it’s best for the team.”