In a critical must-win matchup, the women’s soccer team did just enough to secure a home victory against Cornell, with a final tally of 1–0 Saturday night.
Yale (7–5–0, 2–2–0 Ivy) built off a strong performance against Marist last Monday night, earning its second shutout in a row. Cornell (7–5–1, 1–3–0), meanwhile, had any hopes of an Ivy title dashed: The team now finds itself sixth in the eight-team conference.
The Bulldogs now find themselves fourth in the league, but the squad may just be getting on track. Head coach Rudy Meredith has stressed the importance of the team’s first-half play, in addition to sharpening up its defense.
“When we don’t give up a goal early, we don’t lose,” Meredith said.
Meredith has the statistics to back him up. In each of the five games in which the Bulldogs have shut out their opponent in the first half, Yale has won.
The first half of the action on Saturday night saw a relatively balanced and uneventful game unfold, as the teams entered halftime in a scoreless stalemate. Though the Bulldogs did not yet break through, Meredith was satisfied.
“I was happy with the first-half play since we did meet one of our goals in not giving up a goal,” Meredith said. “That was a big time boost.”
The Yale fans in attendance at Reese Stadium did not have to wait much longer for a reason to cheer. Three minutes and 41 seconds into the second half, midfielder Juliann Jeffrey ’14 capitalized on a virtually empty net, notching her second goal of the season. Her first score came in the Marist matchup.
Midfielder Geny Decker ’17 fired a shot at Cornell goalkeeper Kelsey Tierney, who managed to deflect but not corral the ball. The rebound landed at Jeffrey’s right foot, and she effortlessly found the back of the net.
Jeffrey has seen increased playing time these past few games as midfielder Frannie Coxe ’15 is day-to-day with a back injury. Jeffrey has not wasted the opportunity.
“Frannie’s working on coming back, and it’s been great to be able to play more minutes and contribute by scoring early in the Marist game on Monday and then again tonight,” Jeffrey said after the game. “[Coxe] is a huge part of the team, and hopefully she’ll be back next weekend.”
The Bulldogs kept up the pressure, and very nearly earned another goal or two. One Yale corner kick in the 56th minute was especially promising, as some indecisiveness by Tierney allowed the ball to bounce around the box. Multiple Bulldogs got a foot on the ball, but no one was able to capitalize and direct it into the net.
The defensive front, led by captain Shannon McSweeney ’14, played a clean game and has shown notable improvement over the course of the season. Especially encouraging has been the performance of goalkeeper Elise Wilcox ’15, as she has been in net for each of the past two shutouts.
“A shutout is a shutout,” Meredith said. “I can’t even remember the last time we had an Ivy League shutout so that’s huge.”
Incidentally, Yale’s last conference shutout came against Cornell last season. The Elis did not allow a goal against Brown in the final game of last season, but that was considered a non-league game since the teams played twice last year.
Wilcox’s fellow keeper Rachel Ames ’16 is currently out of the picture as she recovers from a concussion she suffered last week. Before the injury, the competition for the spot in net did not discourage the goalies, but instead pushed the duo. “Rachel and I have to support each other the best we can because if you’re on the bench, you need to be helping the goalie who’s in play their best,” Wilcox said in an email. “If you’re not going to win the race, make the person in front of you break the record.”
With a two-game shutout streak under Wilcox’s belt, it would be surprising if she did not continue to start. Either way, Yale will be rolling as it enters this weekend, when it faces off against Penn (9–1–3, 3–1–0) with the most momentum the Bulldogs have had all season.
Yale is scheduled to kick off at Penn on Saturday at 5 p.m.