The women’s soccer team rode a four-game end-of-season winning streak to a second-place finish in the Ivy League. And it may not be over yet.
If things go their way when the tournament seedings are announced tomorrow, the Elis could roll on to an appearance in the NCAA College Cup for the second time in three years.
The Bulldogs (11-6, 5-2 Ivy) overcame Princeton (8-8-1, 4-3) on the road yesterday afternoon to earn the second-place spot in the final Ancient Eight standings. In addition to spoiling the Tigers’ Senior Day, the Elis finished out their own regular-season schedule with four straight wins.
The Bulldogs have played some of their best soccer of the season in the last few weeks, outscoring their opponents 10-4 over that stretch.
“It’s a great feeling,” captain Mary Kuder ’08 said. “We have done everything we could ask ourselves to do, and I think we’re very happy with the Ivy League season overall.”
Although Penn clinched the Ancient Eight title outright with a 1-0 win over Harvard on Saturday night, the Bulldogs knew that Sunday’s game against the Tigers, considered among the Ivy’s best teams at the start of the season, was still important — the winner would claim second place in the Ivy League and could possibly garner an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA Selection Committee hands out 30 automatic bids to conference winners and 34 bids to at-large teams. When the Elis went to the tournament in 2005, they went as Ivy League Conference champs.
But the fact that they would not receive the automatic bid this year did not deter the Elis.
The Bulldogs took the lead in the 18th minute of the game, when forward Maggie Westfal ’09 lofted a shot from 30 yards out off a feed from forward Becky Brown ’11. Westfal’s tenth goal of the season — which gave her the team lead — sailed just under the crossbar to put Yale ahead 1-0.
But the Tigers answered back 10 minutes later with a header goal to knot the score at 1-1, where it remained until halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, it took the Bulldogs just 1:02 to pull ahead after the break. Princeton goalie Maren Dale stopped an initial Westfal shot, but forward Emma Whitfield ’09 was there to knock the rebound back across the goal line.
Forward Becky Brown ’11 made it 3-1 a little over five minutes later off a feed from Caitlin Collins ’10.
“At halftime, we knew 45 minutes was all we had left, so we went out and put it all on the line,” Westfal said.
After the offense scored the two quick goals, the Bulldog defense settled down to the keep the Tigers at bay. Princeton co-captain Diana Matheson, a member of the Canadian national team, was held scoreless for one of the only times all season.
Yale goaltender Susan Starr ’08 — who has started every game this season and amassed 52 saves — came up with seven saves to earn the victory.
The Elis will learn their fate in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow at 8 p.m., when the seedings are announced on ESPN News. The squad will be looking to earn an at-large berth in the tournament as a result not only of their high finish in the Ivy League but also their strength of schedule.
Head Coach Rudy Meredith said she thinks the Bulldogs played the toughest schedule in the Ancient Eight, and three of their six losses have come to top-30 teams.
Either way, players said that this season — the seventh straight in which the women’s soccer team has finished with a winning record — will be considered a success by the squad, particularly because of the way the squad turned things around after a couple of tough losses early in the season.
“I’m just really proud of our progress,” Kuder said. “I think that both sides of play are really coming together. If we are lucky enough to get into the tournament, I definitely think we are peaking right now.”