Yale knocks off defending champs

In an Ivy League regular season opener full of postseason drama, the women’s soccer team managed to come from behind and defeat defending Ivy League champion Princeton during overtime, with a final score of 3–2.

The victory came on Saturday afternoon at Princeton as the Bulldogs (5–3–0, 1–0–0 Ivy) proved that their title hopes this season are serious. The win also avenged a heartbreaking 2–1 overtime loss to Princeton that opened up Yale’s 2012 Ivy League schedule.

Princeton (4–2–2, 0–1–0) jumped ahead early with a goal in the 31st minute from midfielder Jesse McDonough. The 1–0 Tiger advantage carried into halftime, continuing a disconcerting trend for the Elis. It marked the fourth game in a row that the Bulldogs have been unable to score in the first half. Head coach Rudy Meredith worried about the team falling behind so often.

“We’ve had seasons where we couldn’t win if we fell behind, so we are definitely fighting harder this year,” Meredith said. “But it is very dangerous. We must focus on trying to score first and making the other team chase, instead of the other way around.”

Yale evened things out at one apiece just over a minute into the second half as midfielder Meredith Speck ’15 found the back of the net for the first time this season, connecting off an assist from forward Paula Hagopian ’16. That would not be the last time this connection wreaked havoc on the Princeton defense.

Tigers defender Haley Chow pushed Princeton ahead 2–1 with a goal in the 74th minute, only to lose the lead in less than a minute’s time. Forward Melissa Gavin’s ’15 Ivy League-leading sixth goal of the season was a fantastic strike from 20 yards out, off yet another assist from Hagopian, who recorded her first two assists of the campaign.

The 2–2 draw remained intact for the rest of regulation, setting up Yale for its second overtime match this year. Despite a defense that lacked depth due to injuries, Speck went up to coach Meredith and insisted that she play on the offensive side of the ball.

“[Speck] is one of our best offensive players,” Meredith said. “She sounded so confident about moving up and going for the win that we had to listen to her.”

Sure enough, in the 99th minute, it was Speck who set up the game-winning goal. She handled a long pass from midfielder Frannie Coxe ’15 before dribbling down the wing and finding an open Hagopian on a perfectly executed cross. Hagopian banged home the game-winner that propelled Yale to victory in their Ivy League season debut.

For Hagopian, it was her second goal of the season. Even more impressively, it was her second game winner as well. The same Speck and Hagopian duo also produced the late-game heroics against Towson, as Yale knocked off Towson 4–3 in double overtime Sept. 15.

Hagopian acknowledged that this goal meant even more, considering who the opponent was.

“We have been working since our last Ivy game last season to try and figure out exactly what we needed to do to beat Princeton,” Hagopian said. “So winning made it all worth it. It was especially exciting since they beat us in overtime last year, so we really got back at them.”

It was Rachel Ames ’16 who earned the starting job and the win in goal for the conference opener. Moving forward, the decision whether to start her or fellow keeper Elise Wilcox ’15 will continue to be a game-time decision for Meredith.

The Bulldogs will have some time to recover and prepare for their next game, which will be another Saturday afternoon matchup. This time, Yale will be hosting conference rival Harvard (5–3–1, 1–0–0).

Kickoff against Harvard is slated for 4 p.m. this Saturday at Reese Stadium.

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