While conference titles were at stake for other Yale teams this weekend, the only thing on the line during the men’s soccer game against Columbia was the last-place spot in the Ivy League.
Yale (6-9-1, 2-4 Ivy) topped the Lions (7-7-2, 0-4-2), 4-3, in the first few minutes of overtime Saturday night. With the thrilling finish, the Elis move up to sixth in the Ancient Eight by keeping the last-place Lions at bay in the Senior Day victory.
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The Bulldogs exploded to a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute when midfielder Jon Carlos ’09 got the ball in the far right corner of the field and crossed it to midfielder Nick Franchot ’07. He headed the ball past the keeper into the upper left corner of the goal, pulling the Elis ahead of the Lions very early in the game.
Columbia retaliated six minutes later when a Yale miscommunication allowed star forward Tom Davison to draw keeper Dwayne Whylly ’08 out of the goal and to pass the ball directly into the back of the net to even the score.
After the early activity on the scoreboard, the Bulldogs began to control the rhythm of the game and to possess the ball. Midfielder Max Rhodes ’09 said the Elis’ commanding play was because they were passing up the wings, making it easier to maintain possession.
In the 41st minute, Carlos received the ball inside the box from forward Alex Munns ’07 and took a shot that deflected off Columbia goalkeeper Michael Testa. Carlos scooped up the rebound and fired it past the keeper and into the net.
But once again, the Elis’ lead was short-lived. Columbia’s James Pounder received the ball off a throw-in and unloaded a shot from inside the box in the last minute of play, tying up the score at two just before halftime.
Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said the team’s dominance in the first period resulted from its ability to open up the field and to control the movement of the ball.
“When we pass the ball and get it wide, we are really dangerous,” he said.
In the second half, the Bulldogs lost some of their command over the game, as they were no longer able to advance the ball along the sidelines. Columbia passed around the Eli midfield, maintaining possession and getting more opportunities in the offensive third.
“We lost our way a little bit in the second half,” Tompkins said. “It allowed Columbia to get back in the game.”
The Lions took the space they were given and pulled ahead, 3-2, on a penalty kick by Tom Smith in the 59th minute. Although Whylly dove the right way, he missed the well-placed shot by inches.
The score remained the same for the next 20 minutes, but neither team lost their intensity. Down by a point, the Elis put more pressure on the Columbia defense and booted nine of their total 21 shots in the second half.
Then, in the 82nd minute, Carlos took the ball from the midfield to the top right corner of the box and placed a high, arcing shot into the top left corner of Columbia’s goal to even the score at three. Captain and defender Jordan Rieger ’07 said the goal was a brilliant individual effort on Carlos’s part.
“We were knocking on their doorstep the whole game,” he said. “When Jon Carlos finally kicked the door in, it really boosted our morale.”
With the score even at three, the Bulldogs and the Lions battled hard for the last eight minutes of regulation play. As the players took the field to start the first sudden-death overtime period, the large crowd of the players’ friends and families electrified the atmosphere at Reese Stadium.
At 2:43 into the first overtime, midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10 passed the ball up to forward Josh Block ’07, who then dribbled up the side and drew out the Columbia defenders and keeper. He delivered the ball to midfielder James Stewart ’07, who easily placed the pass into the lower left corner of the wide-open net to win the game in dramatic fashion for the Elis.
Munns said the team had practiced spreading out the Columbia defense to draw both center backs over to the outside, allowing the Bulldogs to play the ball behind the defense.
“It was a perfect ball from Raybould, a perfect pass from Block and a perfect shot from Stewart,” he said. “That’s as good as we can be.”
After Stewart’s game-winning goal gave the Elis their second Ivy win and second-straight victory, the team and crowd rushed the field in jubilation. Amidst a crowd of players, family members and Yalies, the eight seniors emerged, ready to take pictures and to start the celebration.
“I’m really thrilled for [the seniors] that their Yale home career ended with so many contributions from their class,” Tompkins said, referring to the two goals and two assists by members of the graduating class.
The exciting overtime victory on Saturday night was the Bulldogs’ last game in front of a home crowd this season, and the squad will have something to celebrate this week before traveling to Providence to take on Brown next Friday in their season finale.
“The score is what matters in Ivy games, so we’re not going to overanalyze this [game],” Tompkins said. “We’re going to take the win and move on to Brown.”