Despite several strong performances this weekend in Southern California, the Bulldogs did not have much luck in their matches.
The men’s soccer team fell to both California powerhouses it faced during its West Coast road trip. On Friday, the Bulldogs fell to UC Santa Barbra 3–1, and two days later, they lost 3–2 to Cal Poly.
“Our biggest takeaway from this trip is that we proved we can play well against some of the best teams in the country,” goalkeeper Blake Brown ’15 said. “We scored multiple times and had some great defensive plays. Now we are going to bring those positives back to New Haven.”
The Bulldogs (1-5-0, 0-0 Ivy), started their weekend at UCSB (4-2-0, 0-0 Big West) last Friday in front of 3,000 raucous fans.
The matchup was a homecoming for forward Avery Schwartz ’16, a Santa Barbra native, as well as five other Elis from California. But the game did not begin well. With only 10 minutes gone, a Gauchos player cut the ball back across the box where it was fired low into the goal by forward Achille Champion. UCSB, coming off a win against fellow Ivy Penn, kept up the pressure, forcing Yale goalkeeper Brown into a save just a minute later.
In the next 20 minutes, UCSB had four shots and four corners, further pinning the Bulldogs in their own half. The pressure led to another breakthrough when, in the 35th minute, a UCSB corner kick was headed onto the cross bar by forward Charlie Miller, who reacted faster than the Yale defenders to steer his own rebound into the net for a 2-0 lead. The Gauchos continued to assert their dominance on the game, forcing Brown into another save in the 38th minute.
Yale got a goal back after some nice play by forward Scott Armbrust ’13 to set up fellow forward Cody Wilkins ’13, who fired a shot past the UCSB goalkeeper with just 35 second left in the half. It was Wilkins’ first goal since 2010, as the forward had missed the entire 2012 season and most of the 2011 season with injuries.
After the intermission, Yale came out with renewed intensity and outshot the Gauchos 4-2 in the second half, though the team could not score another goal. In the 65th minute, Champion met a cross at the top of the box with a stunning scissor kick that flew past Brown into Yale’s net for a 3–1 UCSB lead. This effectively ended the contest for the Bulldogs.
“That is the kind of atmosphere that every soccer player lives for,” Brown said. “Our team really enjoyed taking on a tough opponent in a tough venue. These games are to prepare us for the Ivy League season and I believe they did just that.”
On Sunday the Bulldogs traveled to Cal Poly (6-2-0, 0-0 Big West) to take on the red hot Mustangs who were on a three-game winning streak. The game started well for the Bulldogs who went in front in the 19th minute when freshman Cameron Kirdzik ’17 scored off a feed from Armbrust. Yale kept up the pressure and scored just over five minutes later on a counter attack. Schwartz forced the Mustang keeper into a save with a header from close range, and forward Peter Jacobson ’13 pounced on the rebound and put the ball in the back of the net for a 2-0 Yale lead.
But the Mustangs put pressure on the Bulldogs immediately after the score, forcing Brown into a save just two minutes later. Brown was forced into two more saves before the halftime whistle sounded. Cal Poly started quickly after the break, registering a shot with three minutes gone by in the half. The Mustangs pulled a goal back in the 50th minute when a Cal Poly defender headed a free kick into Yale goal from the edge of the box. The Mustangs continued to put pressure on the Bulldogs and had six corners and three shots in the next 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs were repelling every attack the Mustangs could throw at them. In the 84th minute Cal Poly had two efforts cleared off the goal line by Yale defenders. The Bulldogs clung to their one goal lead and saw a further two Mustang shots saved by Brown in a minute span. However, in heartbreaking fashion, Cal Poly equalized with just under two minutes remaining in regulation when a cross was headed in from close range to tie the game at 2-2.
The Mustangs kept the momentum for the overtime period and stopped the Bulldogs from taking a single shot. With eight minutes gone in the first sudden death period, a Cal Poly player cut in from the left wing and unleashed a curling effort past Brown into the top corner of Yale’s net to end the contest at 3-2.
The game was a tough result for the Bulldogs who let in three unanswered goals and were outplayed in the second half. Brown had a career-high seven saves in net, but the Elis were outshot eight to 19 and only had one corner kick compared to the Mustangs’ 11.
“It’s frustrating not getting results, but we are playing well,” captain Max McKiernan ’14 said. “We just need to keep our heads up and stay optimistic. Ivy season hasn’t started yet and that’s where it really counts.”
The road trip was the end of a hard two weeks for the Bulldogs who are now on a four-game losing streak. The Bulldogs now have two home games in a row against local rivals Quinnipiac and Harvard in the first conference matchup for both teams.
Yale takes on Quinnipiac at Reese Stadium this Saturday at 7 p.m.