Coming off a disappointing loss to Harvard this past Saturday, the women’s soccer team is seeking to jump back above .500 early in this year’s Ivy League season. The Bulldogs try to do just that when they host fellow Ivy contender Dartmouth on Saturday before making a trip to Marist on Monday night for a non-conference showdown.
Yale (5–4–0, 1–1–0 Ivy) is in dire need of a confidence boost, especially considering the fact that the team’s victory over defending Ivy League champion Princeton to open conference play is beginning to seem a bit less impressive. Princeton has struggled thus far, producing an 0–2–0 record in the Ivy League, with the Tigers’ second loss coming to none other than Dartmouth (4–4–2, 1–1–0). To maintain their Ivy League title aspirations, the Bulldogs cannot afford any more slipups.
“If we want a shot at the title, it’s very important that we win out the rest of our games,” midfielder Meredith Speck ‘15 said. “Our season isn’t nearly over, and anything can happen on any given day, but we need to keep up the mentality that there is no other option but to win.”
Forward Emma Brush has been the primary catalyst on offense so far for the Big Green, leading the team in goals (5), points (12) and game-winning goals (2). Meanwhile, goalkeeper Tatianna Saunders bolsters the defense for Dartmouth, as herfour shutouts are tied for second-most in the Ivy League.
Yale forward Melissa Gavin ’15 continues to dictate the offensive punch for the Bulldogs, as she is tied for the conference lead with seven goals. Additionally, she is the most efficient scorer in the league on a per-shot and per-game basis. Also at the stop of the stat column is midfielder Frannie Coxe ’15, whose six assists top the Ancient Eight.
For head coach Rudy Meredith, though, offense has not been the issue — at least in the second half. Falling behind early and failing to score in the first half have plagued the Bulldogs this season.
“One of our biggest concerns is not giving up a goal in the first half because we’ve been giving those away like they’re Halloween candy,” Meredith said. “Our first goal is to get to halftime not being down a goal.”
He noted that the team has been more able to score in the second half, as 12 of the team’s 15 goals have come in that period. In fact, the team has not scored a first half goal since the fourth game of the season, a 4–3 victory over Towson on Sept. 15. When the Bulldogs have scored in the first half, they are 3–0.
Recently, however, the team has made a habit of entering halftime with a deficit to overcome. Whereas Dartmouth has only allowed one goal in its past six games, Yale has allowed five in just two Ivy League games so far.
“It is tough when you’re chasing in Ivy games,” Meredith said. “You most likely lose when you give up two goals in Ivy play.”
Coxe said that she recognizes this trend must stop and that the Elis must play an energized first half if they want to come away with the win.
For Yale to earn its third consecutive victory over Dartmouth, Coxe emphasized the importance of effort paired with execution.
“We need to come out strong in the first half and stick to our game plan,” Coxe said. “We need to continue working on and off the ball, always making sure to communicate and transition into the attack.”
The Bulldogs will enter play with a couple of game-time lineup decisions. Goalkeepers Rachel Ames ’16 and Elise Wilcox ’15 are still battling it out in practice to determine who earns the starting spot. Midfielder Speck is also a question mark: she will play, but where she will play on the pitch this Saturday is still up for debate.
Speck has been moved around quite a bit recently, as the midfielder has done great work both on defense and on offense the past few games. It was Speck herself who set up the winning goal against Princeton on Sept. 28 after playing defense for much of the game.
Win or lose, Yale will have a chance to either continue its momentum, or pick itself up, when the team travels to take on Marist (6–6–2, 4–2–0 MAAC) Monday night. The Red Foxes are led by senior midfielder Rycke Guiney and her team-leading five goals. For now, however, all the focus for the Bulldogs is on Dartmouth.
Kickoff against the Big Green is slated for 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at Reese Stadium.