The men’s soccer team just needed a little confidence to get its season off to a promising start.
Despite a lackluster beginning, a goal by Jordan Raybould ’10 midway through the first half energized the squad as they went on to a 2-0 defeat of Maine (1-3) at Reese Stadium yesterday.
For a team with hopes of winning the Ivy League this year, the season almost started disastrously. Within the first two minutes of play, Maine’s forward and captain Dimitri Anastasiou tried to take advantage of a botched header by a Yale defender, but sent his shot into the left-side netting of the goal.
The Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) looked unsure of themselves in the early minutes of the games and struggled to retain possession of the ball. But Maine was unable to capitalize on the home team’s mistakes and never seriously threatened goalkeeper Travis Chulick ’10, who made four saves in the shutout.
Players responded after head coach Brian Tompkins encouraged his team to settle down 10 minutes into the game.
“Since it was the first game of the season, there was a lot of adrenaline, guys are jumpy,” Tompkins said. “They were working hard, but we just wanted them to work harder.”
The arrival of substitute right-winger Jon Carlos ’10, who danced down the sideline and sent dangerous crosses into the penalty, helped the Bulldogs take control and put pressure on Maine’s defense. Time also helped ease the pressure on the young players, according to Raybould, as they were able to feel the flow of the game and get accustomed to Maine’s style of play.
As Yale’s attacks on goal became more frequent, the Bulldogs eventually converted a Raybould header in the 27th minute.
After a well-played long ball by captain Alex Guzinski ’09 forced Maine goalie Alex Pilitsis to make a save on Bulldog striker Charlie Neil ’12, the ensuing corner paid dividends for a team that had been hoping to score on more set pieces this season.
A pinpoint corner from midfielder Eric Meyer ’11 found Guzinski, whose header was redirected by Raybould on the far post to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
From that point on, the Bulldogs looked like a different team — one that was done with its first-game jitters.
“Whenever a team goes up 1-0, everyone immediately relaxes,” Raybould explained. “It eases all the pressure. [The goal] gave the guys a lot of confidence that we could win the game.”
Although Yale didn’t manage to notch another goal before the end of the half, they continued to dominate. Frequent substitutions and fresh legs let the team remain energized in the blistering heat.
The Bulldogs, in addition to experience, also have a tremendous amount of depth. From the three freshman starters — Andy Hackbarth ’12, Marcus DiLallo ’12 and Charlie Neil ’12 — to walk-on Sam Post ’09, whose skillful dribbling frustrated the Maine defense, the Elis looked strong through the depth chart.
In the second half, the Bulldogs picked up right where they left off, with crisp ball movement and cross-field switches that opened up the field and enabled them to continue attacking the Black Bear defense.
They scored their second goal in the 62nd minute on another header from the provider of the first goal, Eric Meyer. Max Rhodes ’09 headed a far-post cross from Neal back to Meyer, whose header found the right side of the net.
From then on, the Bulldogs had some breathing room and were never seriously threatened by the Black Bears. The Elis ended up out-shooting the visitors by a 14-11 margin, with more quality chances than Maine.
The team now must prepare for its next contest, travelling to the Dartmouth Classic to face Colgate on Sept. 12.
Although its performance was not perfect and the team knows certain things must be improved — including getting off to a good start early in the game — it recognizes this victory as a jumping-off point.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” Guzinski said. “Morale is really high. One of our goals has been to improve every day, and this is just a stepping stone.”