Saturday night was a storybook ending for the women’s soccer team’s class of 2011. On Senior Night, the team pulled off a thrilling 2-1 victory over Columbia in their final home game of the season at Reese Stadium.
A late second half goal by forward Kristen Forster ’13 and clutch goalkeeping by Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 propelled the Bulldogs (7–8–1, 2–3–1 Ivy) past a Columbia (9–4–3, 3–2–1 Ivy) squad that had entered the matchup tied with Penn for first place in the Ivy League.
“It felt like we won the championship the way they played tonight,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “Our goalkeeper was unbelievable. I think she’s the player of the year in the league. That’s my opinion. She’s been playing great. She saved the game for us today.”
All six seniors were in the team’s starting lineup, including defenseman Lizz Reeves ’11, who played in her first game this season.
The game started out at a fast pace, with the Yale attack coming out strong in the early minutes of the first half. The Elis had three straight corner kicks in the second minute of the game, but the Columbia defense cleared all three attempts.
Columbia had its own scoring opportunity in the 11th minute. The Lions’ Marissa Schultz crossed the ball to Coleen Rizzo, who took a shot in front of the net, forcing Sumiyasu to make a diving stop to prevent a Columbia goal.
Six minutes later, the Bulldogs got on the board. Captain and forward Becky Brown ’11 lofted a ball deep into the Elis’ half of the field and found forward Miyuki Hino ’12 on the right wing. Hino took the pass, got past Columbia keeper Lillian Klein and took a shot that hit the far post of the net and bounced in to put Yale up 1-0 at 17:11. It was the first time the team had scored first in an Ivy League contest this season.
The Bulldogs’ lead did not hold for long, however, as the Lions came back and scored the equalizer in the 25th minute. After Columbia’s Lindsay Mushett rocketed a shot towards the net from the right wing, Ashlin Yahr got a slight touch on it and redirected the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to even the contest at 1–1.
Columbia nearly took the lead early in the second half, when Liz Wicks took a shot from in front of the net off a well-placed corner kick. However, Sumiyasu was there to kick the ball away and abate the threat.
Both teams had a few scoring opportunities over the next 20 minutes, but neither team could capitalize on them.
Just as overtime appeared imminent, the Bulldogs broke the tie. In the 86th minute, Forster came speeding down the middle of the field and launched a shot from 20 yards out at Klein, who flubbed the ball and let it get past her to give the Elis the 2–1 advantage.
But the Lions did not go down without a fight. After the Yale goal, Columbia came storming down the field in one final attack. A shot by Mushett deflected off the far post of the net, and Liz Crowe and Schultz both launched close-range shots at Sumiyasu, who made spectacular back-to-back saves to deny Columbia the equalizer and seal the win for the Bulldogs.
As soon as time expired, the Yale bench stormed the field to engulf Sumiyasu in jubilant hugs. Afterwards, the entire Bulldog squad received a standing ovation from the crowd, who braved frigid temperatures to cheer the team on for the entire game.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Sumiyasu said. “We’ve been playing to our potential this year, it just hasn’t been going our way, and this time it went our way. All the defenders did a really good job. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their full support.”
With the win, the Elis also spoiled the Lions’ run for the Ivy League title. Though Columbia had entered the match tied with Penn for first place in the Ivy League, the loss dropped the Lions to a third place tie with Dartmouth. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, moved up from last place to a sixth place tie with Brown.
The Elis will close out their season on Saturday, when they will play their final game against Brown. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Stevenson Field in Providence.