MEN’S SOCCER: Bulldogs tussle with Lions

No. 4 Paula Hagiopian ’16 scored Yale’s lone goal in a 1–1 tie at Penn this weekend.
No. 4 Paula Hagiopian ’16 scored Yale’s lone goal in a 1–1 tie at Penn this weekend. Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

After Tuesday’s 2–0 win over CCSU, the men’s soccer team travels to New York this weekend looking to close the gap at the top of the Ivy League table.

The Elis (4–9–1, 2–1–1 Ivy) are currently three points off of first place Penn and need a win in order to stay in the running for the Ancient Eight title. While Columbia (7–4–2, 1–1–2 Ivy) has struggled in conference play, it will represent a tough test for the Bulldogs. The Lions are undefeated at home with a 4–0–2 record and boast a high scoring attack despite their poor Ivy League performance.

“Columbia is a good team,” captain and midfielder Max McKiernan ’14 said. “I know they have some really good players in their program so it should be a battle. We’re good enough to beat any team in the league. We just need to compete and execute for 90 minutes, and we’ll definitely have to do that if we want to get out of New York with a win.”

Yale slipped up in heartbreaking fashion in its last Ivy League outing, falling to Penn 3–2 in OT. But the team rebounded with a win on Tuesday against Central Connecticut State University that featured a full 90 minutes of dominant play. The Elis held CCSU without a shot on target the whole game and scored on both sides of halftime to secure victory.

Facing CCSU, goalkeeper Blake Brown ’15 secured his third shutout of the season while defender Keith Bond ’16 scored the first goal of his Yale career with a beautiful top corner effort. Midfielder Scott Armbrust ’14 also tallied a goal and midfielder Pablo Espinola ’16 added his first collegiate point, assisting on Bond’s goal.

“The win was exactly what we needed to have momentum going into Saturday,” Brown said. “We were the better team on the field and that showed on the scoreboard. It was also nice to see the depth of the team show[ing]. We had some different guys come on the field and have a great impact on the game.”

Yale’s offense has picked up in its last two contests. It has produced two goals, better than any other two-game stretch this season. Forwards Cameron Kirdzik ’17 and Peter Jacobson ’14 lead the offense for the Bulldogs as each has scored four goals. Fellow striker Henry Albrecht ’17 has also been crucial to the Elis’ attack with three assists and one goal on the season.

On the opposite end of the field, Brown and the rest of Yale’s defense have been a cohesive unit. Excluding the loss to Penn, Brown has not surrendered a goal since Oct. 5 against Harvard. While Brown has not played in every other game since that date, the rest of the defense has also proved stout, surrendering a paltry four goals in six contests.

The Bulldogs will need to be firing on all cylinders going into their matchup in New York as the Lions rank second in the Ivy League in both goals scored and goals against.

Columbia has three players who have scored more than four goals on the season. Midfielder David Najem, who leads the Lions in points, has scored four goals and provided six assists, the latter of which is good for second in the Ancient Eight. The Bulldogs will need to be wary of the senior midfielder’s creative and goal scoring threat.

Saturday night’s contest has major Ivy League implications for the Bulldogs, who are currently only three points behind conference-leader Penn. With the exception of Princeton, whose seven points match that of Elis, Yale’s two remaining Ancient Eight contests are against teams with worse records than its own. On the other hand, the Quakers still have to play both Princeton and second-placed Harvard.

A loss to Columbia would almost certainly leave Yale out of contention for its first Ivy Championship in men’s soccer since 2005.

“This is essentially a must win game for both teams,” defender Nick Alers ’14 said. “We know that if we want to keep ourselves in contention, this is a game we have to come away with. We’re expecting another tough game but we have to play confidently.”

Columbia’s home turf has been a fortress this season with the Lions posting an imposing 12–4 goal differential at Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium. Alers noted that while the game will certainly be tough, especially for some of the younger players, the team already has one away Ivy League contest under its belt. Yale’s Oct. 26 match with Penn will certainly help to set the Elis’ expectations going into the match, Alers said.

Last year in New Haven, the Bulldogs came back to tie the Lions 1–1 thanks to Albrecht’s effort in the 70th minute.

Yale plays Columbia this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in New York.

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