In a game void of the Bulldogs’ typical Ivy League late-game heroics, a tough Cornell defense kept the men’s soccer team off the scoreboard all the way through two overtimes to keep the game a tie, denying the Elis a chance to gain sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
Big Red goalkeeper Zach Zagorski had seven saves against the Bulldogs (3–7–1, 2–0–1 Ivy), including an 82nd minute penalty stop against defender Nick Alers ’14.
“Obviously we were going for the win, but we still control our own destiny after the tie,” captain Max McKiernan ’14 said. “We’re really optimistic about our situation [in the Ivy League].”
While the team extended its shutout streak to two games, Yale missed its chance to establish itself as the clear leader in the Ancient Eight, as Penn and Princeton etched key victories to move into a tie with the Elis for the top spot.
Cornell came into Reese Stadium with the best defense in the Ivy League, having conceded only eight goals on the season. The Big Red picked up its first point in the Ivy League so far but has remained winless in its past five games.
The game’s first scoring chance fell to forward Henry Albrecht ’17, who saw his 12th minute effort saved by Zagorski. Cornell had two of its first-half shots blocked and had its only shot on target saved by goalkeeper Blake Brown ’15 in the 41st minute. McKiernan and midfielder Scott Armbrust ’14 could not convert their chances in the last five minutes of the half.
“We’re playing good soccer on the defensive side of the ball and it’s showing on the stat sheet after each game,” Brown said.
The second half started with a flurry of chances for the Big Red. In the 52nd minute, Cornell had an effort go wide before Brown was forced into a save just 30 seconds later. Yale responded through defender Attila Yaman ’15 in the 72nd minute. In the sophomore’s second game for the Bulldogs since walking onto the team last spring, he forced Zagorski into a save to keep the score level.
The Big Red had a great chance to break the deadlock in the 80th minute when Cornell forward Benjamin Williams got behind the Yale defense and blasted a shot that Brown parried down before recovering to smother the ball.
The best chance of the game, however, came to Alers two minutes later. After a Cornell foul in the box, the defender stepped up and hit the resulting penalty kick to Zagorski’s left. The goalkeeper was up to the test and guessed correctly to save Alers’ effort. The rebound came to Alers for another chance, but again Cornell’s man between the sticks got up to deny him.
While Albrecht had another shot before the end of regulation, the game remained scoreless and the contest went into overtime for the second straight time for both teams. Cornell had a good chance just 30 seconds into the first overtime, but again Brown closed the door on the Big Red.
Winger Jenner Fox ’14 saw one of his team-high three shots saved by Zagorski in the 98th minute. The chance came during a spell of Eli pressure on Cornell’s net that included four corner kicks in the last three minutes.
Yale would start the second overtime period with a great chance to open the scoring. With just under eight minutes left in the game, winger Cody Wilkins ’14 found free space and met forward Cameron Kirdzik’s ’17 cross with a header that bounced in front of Zagorski and over the crossbar. The Bulldogs had two more shots but could not manage to find the back of the net.
Brown remained solid in goal for the Bulldogs in another stout performance and again denied Cornell with a save in the 108th minute.
“Blake has been rock solid for us back there,” McKiernan said. “We have really talented young guys playing in our back line, not to mention the best defender in the league in [Alers]. We’re definitely happy getting those shutouts, and I think those guys are good enough to extend that streak moving forward.”
The Elis extended their shutout streak to two games, their best so far this season. While the Bulldogs did not score late in the game to win, as they did against Harvard and Dartmouth, the tie keeps Yale in the mix at the top of the conference table with Princeton and Penn.
McKiernan mentioned that the in-league success has always been the most important part of the team’s season and the positive results so far in the Ancient Eight mitigate the Elis’ nonconference woes.
“The team confidence this year has been tested but never wavered,” Brown said. “We have a belief in what we are doing and the pieces are falling together at the right time. Our offense has been penetrating the box and finishing at crucial times and our defense has provided great protection. We still have most of the Ivy League to play, and it will be important to keep the momentum going on the road this weekend.”
Yale’s next two conference games will be on the road as it will face league-leading Penn and Columbia. Between those contests, the Bulldogs will play their last two nonconference games against local Connecticut rivals.
The Bulldogs take on UConn at Reese Stadium on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.