A lone goal by forward Becky Brown ’11 in the second half boosted the women’s soccer team to an unexpected win in the season opener against No. 16 Penn State on Friday night.
Brown broke away on a feed from midfielder Enma Mullo ’12 and slipped a shot into the bottom left corner of the net to break a scoreless tie with 28 minutes remaining in the home game. Up by one, the Bulldogs (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) fended off the Nittany Lions for the remainder of the match to seal the upset.
“I was a little nervous playing a quality team this early,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “I’m just happy with the performance. Everyone contributed, from the starters to the bench. It was just a great team effort today.”
Back-and-forth play largely defined the first 45 minutes of the game, with both Yale and Penn State recording a handful of shots but rarely threatening the net. Penn State forward Danielle Tony had the most chances in the first half, but one of her shots glanced off the left post and Bulldog goalkeeper Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 deflected another wide of net.
The fast but even pace of competition continued after the restart, but the Elis intensified their pressure as the half wore on. When Yale finally got an opportunity, Brown was there to capitalize.
“This was one of the games where all the defense is taller, faster, and stronger than Becky, so she can’t hide,” Meredith said. “She picked her moment, and she made the correct run at the right time.”
The goal seemed to be a wake-up call to the Nittany Lions, as the squad resolutely took control of possession and totaled 10 shots for the half. Penn State’s drives came closer and closer to breaking Yale’s defensive lines as the clock ticked down, but the Elis repeatedly foiled the attacks.
The Nittany Lions failed to take advantage of a direct kick in the final 10 minutes and just could not bypass Sumiyasu, despite numerous attempts on net with less than five minutes on the clock.
Sumiyasu said the whole team contributed to fending off Penn State in the second half.
“The forwards were unbelievable in their defense — that’s the best I’ve seen them play in three years,” she said. “The defense is young, and they stood up well, and they kept their shape for the most part.”
Brown said the win was a great team accomplishment, especially against a nationally ranked squad such as Penn State. She said the Elis tried to overestimate their opponents and remain focused for all 90 minutes of play.
“We were taking them very seriously and expecting an amazing team to come out,” Brown said. “They were scared. They were on their feet, and in the first 10 minutes it was like, ‘Whoa, who is this team?’”
The Bulldogs return to Reese Stadium on Sunday to take on Illinois at noon.