Even lightning couldn’t stop Yale on Wednesday night as the women’s soccer team prevailed in the battle of the Bulldogs.
With a strong second half after an hour-long rain delay, the Yale Bulldogs (5-4-1, 0-1 Ivy) cruised to a 2-0 win against the Bryant Bulldogs (1-7-2).
The first half began with the Elis looking to pressure Bryant. In an unsettling reminder of goalpost troubles during the Princeton game, Yale was robbed of a quick go-ahead goal barely two minutes into the game when Miyuki Hino’s ’12 shot hit the post.
But the Elis stayed tough, mentally, and continued to make runs into the opposing end. Bryant crammed the box full of defenders and made it difficult for the Elis to get clean looks. Bryant kept up with Yale and played the final third of the field aggressively, disrupting the final passes into the box away from streaking attackers.
The Elis had another chance to score toward the end of the first half, when Becky Brown ’11 received a through pass to break away from the defense for a one-on-one opportunity with Bryant keeper Jessica Neales. But Brown’s jab steps didn’t fool Neales, and a low cross to a wide-open Emma Whitfield ’09 was broken up by the diving keeper.
“We didn’t have too many chances in the first half to really score,” Whitfield said. “When we get good scoring chances, we just need to put the ball into the net.”
Then, almost as if the clouds were tied to the game clock, lightning and thunder lit up the night sky to halt play at halftime. An anxious rain delay followed, with both sides trying to stay focused and eagerly anticipating the game’s resumption. After an hour of incessant questions about when the game would start up again, the skies cleared and both sides trotted onto a wet field, ready to break the deadlock.
Displaying a renewed sense of urgency, Yale continued to pressure Bryant with aggressive runs down the sidelines. The Elis finally broke through in the 54th minute when Maggie Westfal ’09 fought through a slew of Bryant defenders to tap in a well-placed Kate Macauley ’11 cross.
“[The cross] bounced off of a few people and I was just kinda in the right place at the right time,” Westfal said. “I had no idea if [the shot] was on goal, no idea where the goalie was — I just hit it to the general direction and it went in the net.”
After the goal, the Elis refused to let up, scoring five minutes later when Brown floated a cross to Whitfield, who headed the ball in with authority.
“Those great crosses gave us some nice chances to score and we put them away,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We were forcing play a little bit so the second half was about us keeping possession of the ball and being a little bit more patient in the final third.”
Down 2-0, Bryant began to put in bench players but the Elis held on for the win. In its first year of competition at the NCAA Division I level, Bryant is a hard-working, feisty team that had an impressive 17-2-5 record in Division II in 2007.
Against such an unknown team, the Elis could have easily looked past this game and toward the heated, hyped match against Harvard on Saturday instead. But Yale kept its focus and played the second half with a strong sense of urgency.
“I was a little worried about the girls thinking ahead for Harvard, but they took care of business today,” Meredith said. “I was really proud of [the team’s] work tonight.”