With their starting goalie suspended and coming off a 2–0 loss to a tough Penn squad, the men’s soccer team (4–10–1, 1–3–0 Ivy) kept its composure Wednesday night, defeating Lehigh (7–6-2), 1–0, at Reese Stadium in their last non-league contest of the season.
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Yale goalie Bobby Thalman ’13 was forced to sit out the game after he was flagged with a red card against Penn last Saturday. Goalie Matt Chesky ’12 made his first career start, recording two saves and a shutout performance for the Bulldogs. Players interviewed credited the win in large part to strong defensive play against the Mountain Hawks.
“Our defense has played great all season, it was easy to step into the game behind them because they are so solid,” Chesky said. “We also did a great job keeping the ball on offense and creating offensive opportunities which made it easier for the defense.”
The Bulldogs created scoring opportunities in the first half, recording four shots, but as has been the case this season, had difficulty capitalizing on those chances. But after two consecutive fouls against them and a close shot that was saved by Mountain Hawk goalie Johnathan Nydel, the Bulldogs finally got on the board in the 37th minute. Cody Wilkins ’14 received a ball in the box from midfielder Charlie Neil ’13 and headed a shot into the right corner of the net; the goal was Wilkins’ first of his collegiate career. Neil’s assist was his first of the season.
The goal gave the Bulldogs a 1–0 halftime lead, but Wilkins said that keeping the team’s momentum going into the second half has been a problem for the Elis this year.
“We’ve been in that halftime situation before, we’ve been up in the first half and ended up not winning so the goal didn’t change things for us,” Wilkins said. “We went into halftime knowing we had to come out in the second half and play strong. It wasn’t a relief, it was something we looked to build on instead of look back on.”
The Bulldogs came through this time. The Mountain Hawks produced two shots within the first ten minutes of the second frame, both of which went just wide. Lehigh’s best opportunity to get on the board came in the 59th minute when forward Ayo Olasupo beat out the last Bulldog defender, but his shot sailed just wide of the net.
“I think it was really similar to the Cornell game in that we found a way to score the goal,” captain and midfielder Andy Shorten ’11 said. “We had a great cross from Charlie and a great finish from Cody and after getting the goal we managed to grind it out for the win.”
The Mountain Hawks outshot the Bulldogs 9-8 and recorded nine fouls to the home team’s 11. But it was Yale’s corner kick defense that frustrated Lehigh as the Elis denied eleven corner kick opportunities while having just one of their own.
The Bulldogs return to Ivy League play Saturday night against Columbia at Reese Stadium. Kick-off is slated for 4:30 p.m.