For the men’s soccer team, there was no better way to get back on track than by earning a close Ivy League road win Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y.
Captain and midfielder Andy Shorten ’11’s team-leading third goal of the season late in the first half gave the Bulldogs (2–9–1, 1–2 Ivy) a 1–0 win over Cornell and their first conference win of the season, ending what had been a four-game losing streak.
“We had some tough results, played well in a couple games, a couple bounces didn’t go our way [in previous games],” said midfielder Andy Hackbarth ’12, who played his first game of the season at center defense to fill in for an injured defender. “It does feel nice to really see our hard work play off, especially with a game like that where it’s just a grind for 90 minutes.”
Yale came out strong early, finishing the first half with a 9–4 edge in shots over the Big Red (4–4–4, 0–2–1). The away team’s pressure paid off in the 37th minute after good combination play from defenders Chris Dennen ’12 and Hackbarth. Dennen ended up with the ball at the corner of the 18-yard box after a long Yale corner and used a give-and-go with Hackbarth to find space near the endline before finding Shorten open on a cutback pass. The Bulldog captain took full advantage of the opportunity, burying a far-post shot off the post.
The quick combination play that led up to the goal worked throughout the game, and is something the team has been working on, Hackbarth said.
“It’s something we’ve been striving for, little combination play, looking to keep possession any time you get behind defenders,” Hackbarth said. “What we’ve been looking for is that combination play in the [18-yard box], yesterday it just seemed to click for us … If we continue to do things like that, it’ll be very difficult for teams to stop us.”
The Big Red took control in the second half, finishing the period with an 8–3 advantage in shots. The Elis knew they could not come out flat against the Big Red to start the second half, but began to sacrifice some of the high-intensity pressure that had worked in the first half as the game wore on, midfielder Eric Meyer ’11 said.
“We knew we were up one, and didn’t want to come out flat in the second half — we still wanted to score — but naturally as the game wore on, we did want to protect our lead,” Meyer said. “The more chances they got, the more desperate we got in clearing the ball.”
Goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13 needed only two saves to earn his second shutout of the season.
“I think it was just a commitment to defend [that made the difference against Cornell],” Hackbarth said. “Everyone was really engaged in pressuring the ball, [we] had kids going into tackles hard and making sure we were winning those tackles, guys were diving to block shots … “[It was a] great battle, everyone stayed engaged for all 90 minutes, everyone fought hard. The result speaks for itself, holding them for only two shots on goal in 90 minutes.”
The win moves Yale into a tie with Dartmouth for fifth place in conference standings. And with less than half of the Ivy League season in the books, there is still plenty of time for the Elis to improve.
“Even though it’s late in the season, we’re still growing as a team,” Shorten said. “I think this gives us lots of confidence and momentum going into the end of the Ivy season, which is going to be very tough… [The win] will help us out a lot in moving forward.”
The Bulldogs face a stiff task in No. 17 UPenn Saturday when they welcome the Quakers (10–2, 3–0) to Reese Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.