Although the score sheet might not say it, the Elis can take a lot away from this weekend.
Battling elite women’s soccer teams at the Santa Clara Classic in California, the Bulldogs (4-3-1, 0-0 Ivy) fought valiantly before falling to Stanford (8-0-1) by a score of 4-1 and drawing Santa Clara (3-5-1) in a 0-0 tie.
Two Yale players — midfielder Miyuki Hino ’12 and defender Sophie Merrifield ’10 — were placed on the all-tournament team, receiving accolades for their overall performances during the weekend.
On a sunny Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs took on the Stanford Cardinal as heavy underdogs. Stanford is currently the No. 6 team in the nation, and after a successful weekend campaign will likely enter the top five.
Despite the 4-1 final, Yale’s first 30 minutes of play were filled with aggressive runs on offense and a tight shadowing of their opponents on defense.
“For the first 30 minutes, we had them on their heels a little bit with our pressure and our overall defense,” Miyuki Hino ’12 said. “They had a lot of trouble getting the ball out of their end, and it really gave us a lot of confidence.”
All that offensive pressure led to an improbable 1-0 lead in the first half, courtesy of a Maggie Westfal ’09 tap in from a Megan Ashforth ’10 free kick.
But from there, the Stanford attack materialized and the Cardinal showed why they are one of the best teams in the nation.
“They were really fast and athletic — especially their forwards,” Becky Brown ’11 said. “Their midfield was also all over the place, and it was confusing to keep track of them on defense.”
Stanford used this surge to pull even with the Elis in the last minute of the first half.
The second half saw more of the same from the Cardinal.
“Stanford just wore us down in the second half. They picked up their level of play, and we got a little tired,” Brown said.
With that kind of constant pressure and attack, Stanford managed to score a flurry of goals and pushed the score to a 4-1 lead by the 65th minute.
Coach Rudy Meredith began to work in the bench players to get them important game experience against elite competition.
Even though the score was lopsided, Meredith was still very pleased with the Yale performance.
“They’re a very good team, and I’m pleased to see that we competed with them very well,” he said.
After playing up to their competition Friday, the Elis hoped to continue their sharp play against Santa Clara on Sunday.
Santa Clara had been highly touted coming into the season, with a top-10 freshman recruiting class and a great returning senior class. However, after tough losses on the road against three of the top four teams in the nation, Santa Clara was undoubtedly looking for a win in their first home game of the season.
Yale came out ready to compete and played a relatively even game.
“They spent a fair amount of time in our end, but we were in their end a fair bit, too,” Hino said.
After a scoreless first half, the Bulldogs came out of the locker room with more aggression.
“We were doing a lot of defending in the first half,” Hino said. “But in the second half, we started competing more and had more quality scoring chances than they did.”
The Elis had a couple of excellent scoring opportunities in the second half for a chance to break open the game. The first chance came when captain Emma Whitfield ’09 broke away from a Santa Clara defender, but blasted her shot wide of the goal.
A second chance late in second half could have won the game for the Elis when Becky Brown beat her defender deep in their zone.
“I had a wide-open shot, one on one against the goalie, and she just made a great save.”
In overtime, the Elis had a few more chances to score, but the game simply did not sway either way.
“We really played our best overall game today and competed well with Santa Clara,” Meredith said. “We’ve been giving up a lot of late goals in the latter part of games but today, we finished strong through the two overtimes and actually got better the longer we played.”
With conference play beginning this week, Yale really seems to be a contender for the Ivy title.
“We should be able to compete with everybody in the league,” Meredith said. “There are about four or five teams that could win the Ivy championship and as it looks now, we’re definitely one of those teams.”