With only four games left to prove themselves worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid, the women’s soccer players are feeling a rush of adrenaline through their veins in anticipation of this weekend’s game.
The Bulldogs (6-6-1, 2-2 Ivy) face the Penn Quakers (7-4-1, 1-3) in a 4:30 p.m. contest tomorrow at Reese Stadium. With a larger crowd expected because of Parents’ Weekend, the team must keep its focus and attack from the first whistle if it wants to keep any hopes for postseason play alive.
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“The biggest key is performing well in the first half, and we have had some slow starts by playing poorly in the first half of the last three or four games,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We have not played as well as we could have in the past few games, but we have always played pretty well at home.”
The Bulldogs plan to set the tone of the game from right out of the gate and force the Quakers to keep up with the quick pace of their game. In order to be ready for this crucial matchup, the team has been running hard at practice and collaborating off of the field as well.
“Our mentality is that we absolutely must win on Saturday,” forward Mimi Macauley ’07 said. “We have been practicing really hard and staying together in preparation for the game.”
With a lot of pressure riding upon the outcome of the upcoming game, the Bulldogs are moving beyond their recent struggles. The players are homing in mentally on this next game, in which they know they must score early and often to come out on top.
“We are going to try and put the two losses behind us,” defender Sophie Merrifield ’10 said. “It is easy to get motivated when you have something so big to play for.”
Despite dropping three of their first four Ancient Eight matchups, the Quakers will not be an easy opponent. Penn sports the second-best defense in the Ivy League, and so far this season the squad has taken an impressive 93 shots on goal and converted for 18 goals, while holding their opponents to only 9 goals on 49 attempts.
Last year’s match against Penn left the Bulldogs with a disappointing 1-1 tie, even though Yale held a 13-6 edge in shots and 11-2 advantage in corners. This time around, the Bulldogs hope to be more efficient in scoring goals with numerous opportunities in front of their home crowd.
To add to the adversity already faced by the women’s soccer team in the 2006 campaign, Yale must overcome yet another challenge after starting goalkeeper Susie Starr ’08 collided with an opponent in the last game against Cornell. Her injury has kept her from practicing all week, and it is still questionable whether Starr will make it into the lineup tomorrow, Meredith said. But the Elis are very confident in goalkeeper Marcela Benitez ’07, who left the club team for the varsity squad midway through the season.
“We are not sure yet who will play, but if [Starr] cannot, we are fully confident that [Benitez] can step up to the plate,” Macauley said.
When the Quakers come to New Haven tomorrow, they will find a Yale women’s soccer team that is pumped up and ready to fight from the first whistle to the final second to ensure a victory. With only four games remaining, the Bulldogs are holding out hope that a strong finish might just translate into a second straight appearance in the College Cup Tournament.