PRINCETON, N.J. — The Yale women’s soccer team certainly beat the odds this weekend.
Playing with a scrambled lineup and facing last year’s co-Ivy League champion, the injury-riddled Bulldogs showed no signs of weakness in Saturday’s away game against Princeton, blanking the Tigers 2–0 and notching their first conference win.
“This was a great win for us,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “I’m just very happy. It was a very good team effort, and everyone played well.”
The trio of forwards — Mary Kubiuk ’13, Miyuki Hino ’12, and Becky Brown ’11 — led the Bulldogs (5–3, 1–0 Ivy) in the offensive third.
Kubiuk tallied her second career goal to put Yale on the board 33 minutes into the match. Hino solidified the lead over Princeton (2–5–1, 0–1 Ivy) with her first season goal in the 56th minute, and Brown assisted on both.
The win continued to build the momentum generated by Yale’s hard-fought Tuesday victory over Quinnipiac, which snapped the team’s three-game losing streak.
“Walking into here, I felt like Quinnipiac was a pyrrhic victory because we got so many injuries even though we won the game,” Meredith said.
With numerous players in questionable form for the opening Ivy League game — including the senior threesome of midfielder Megan Ashforth ’10 and defenders Caitlin Collins ’10 and captain Sophia Merrifield ’10 — Meredith needed his team to step up across the board.
“We didn’t know who was going to play until maybe five minutes before the game because we had to see how people looked during warm-ups,” Meredith said. “Normally you have a plan A and B, but because of these injuries we ended up having an A, B, C and D.”
Whichever plan with which the team went seemed to work, as Yale players delivered a high level of play from the get-go — a standard of competition demanded by conference matches.
“Every Ivy game is played like a championship game for us,” midfielder Enma Mullo ’12 said.
The first half-hour of play passed with both teams vying for possession, but neither side could capitalize on their few attempts taken during the back-and-forth play. Roughly 20 minutes into the period, Brown found an opening on the left side of the field and took a shot, but Tiger goalkeeper Alyssa Pont saved the ball.
Princeton repeatedly found their challenges blocked by Yale defenders, as the Tiger offense kept working the left.
Rookie Kristen Forster ’13 also saw a share of defensive action, spending much of the game playing right back instead of her typical position of attacker.
“A lot of our defense is hurt, so I just stepped in and did my best at that position,” Forster said. “We basically just had to pull our strength together for the game because we have a lot of injuries, so that created a lot of adversity that we pulled ourselves through.”
And the Elis did come out on top of those challenges.
The action first turned in Yale’s favor in the 33rd minute when the Elis launched yet another offensive, and a ball sent from the midfield gave Brown a breakaway toward the goal. Pont ran out to block Brown’s shot, but before either the Tiger keeper or defenders could scramble back into position, Kubiuk outraced the field to settle the rebound and send it to the upper-right corner of an open net.
Kubiuk notched her first career goal with a game-winning ball against Quinnipiac on Tuesday. She has now recorded 17 shots and appeared in all eight games. The Princeton game marked her — and the other freshmen’s — first Ivy League contest.
“I was a little nervous, but also really excited because everyone told me that it was going to be way more intense than usual,” Kubiuk said of the match. “It definitely was.”
The game’s intensity was ratcheted up to another level when Yale’s 1–0 lead incited a furious wave of attacks from Princeton’s squad, but the Tigers failed to capitalize on back-to-back corner kicks, and their shots from far-out were easily saved by goalkeeper Ayana Sumiyasu ’11.
The half closed with both sides racking up four shots apiece and Princeton recording a 6–0 advantage over Yale with corners. But the Elis had the 1–0 lead.
Both sides stormed out again after halftime, and the continuing intensity of the contest was manifested by five consecutive fouls — four committed by Yale — within minutes of resuming play.
But in the 56th minute, Yale once again pushed ahead when attacker Hino controlled a pass from Brown and dribbled up the left to beat Princeton’s goalie in a one-on-one contest and send the ball into the net from 18 yards out.
“I was just trying to stay composed and finish,” Hino said. “Becky gave me a great ball-in, so I had the easy job.”
An immediate counterattack by the Tigers led to another one-on-one contest between keeper and attacker, but Sumiyasu was a match for the dangerous Princeton player and saved the shot.
The Tigers had a series of sporadic scoring opportunities during the remainder of the half — outshooting Yale 5–2 — but few of their attempts threatened the Bulldogs, and they were unable to score. Spurred by a 2–0 lead, Sumiyasu and the Yale defense proved impenetrable and preserved the game’s shutout.
“It was a total team effort,” Meredith said. “Ayana had to make a big save at one time, Kristen stepped up and played pretty well in her first Ivy League game, Miyuki scored her first goal of the season, and Mary Kubiuk has back-to-back game-winning goals.”