While The Game 2008 is still a couple months away, the other “football” games will be on Saturday at Harvard.
The Yale women’s soccer team (5-4-1, 0-1 Ivy) takes on the Crimson (3-3-3, 0-1 Ivy) as both clubs continue the age-old rivalry. While Harvard has a 24-8-1 all-time series lead, the Elis have been victorious in the last three encounters.
Women’s soccer might not have the same rock-’em-sock-’em feel as The Game, but a grudge match against a familiar arch-rival can always get the blood boiling. When Yale lost its Ivy opener against Princeton last week, the passion, intensity and physicality of a conference rival manifested itself in 25 fouls — 12 for the Tigers and 13 for the Bulldogs.
Then there’s the fact that both clubs are looking for their first Ivy league win. While Yale lost a tight game to Princeton, Harvard was dominated by Penn. Those stinging losses for the two traditional Ivy powers and the quest for a first conference win should inject even more fuel into the fire.
All this made Yale’s hard-fought win over Bryant on Wednesday night even more impressive.
“I was a little worried for [the Bryant game] because the girls might be thinking ahead about Harvard,” head coach Rudy Meredith said after the game. “But we took care of business, and now we can start preparing for Harvard.”
The Elis will need to prepare well if they want to continue their recent winning streak. The Crimson attack is led by freshman forward Melanie Baskind, who has eight points and three goals so far in the season. Baskind is not alone in her rookie contributions — the Crimson freshman class was ranked 29th best in the nation. But Yale is not without its own stars. Maggie Westfal ’09 is currently the league leader in points, while Becky Brown ’11 and captain Emma Whitfield ’09 are among the Top Six Ivy points leaders.
The contest will be a game of contrasting styles. The Bulldogs play an exacting offensive game characterized by creating passing lanes and crafting scoring chances. Meanwhile, Harvard relies more on a transition game based upon forcing turnovers.
“Harvard plays a counterattacking game, so we have to be patient on offense so that we don’t force the issue and give away the ball,” Meredith said. “If we can be patient with our passes and take what’s there, then I like our chances.”
Kickoff will be at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the men’s game, and the conference battle will be fierce.
As Meredith said, “It’s Harvard-Yale, so we shouldn’t have any trouble getting motivated.”