With just three games remaining on its schedule, the women’s soccer team is coming into its game at Columbia this Saturday with considerable momentum.
The Bulldogs (7–5–1, 2–2–1 Ivy) are 2–0–1 in their last three games and have outscored their opponents 6–1 in that span. The Lions (7–5–3, 0–3–2) fell 4–2 to Dartmouth last Saturday and have yet to pick up a win in Ancient Eight play.
“We’ve really come together as a team,” captain Shannon McSweeney ’14 said. “Our practices have been really effective and we work hard; we have fun together.”
Though last week’s 1–1 tie against Penn put the Elis out of contention for the Ivy League title, they still have something to play for.
A win would move the Elis above Dartmouth in the conference standings if the Big Green fell to the Harvard Crimson, who are undefeated in Ivy League play. Yale would then be in fourth place in the conference behind Harvard, Penn and Brown.
For McSweeney, Ivy League contention has no effect how the team approaches each game.
“Every single girl on our team is a competitor, and we want to win,” McSweeney said. “It’s a matter of our pride. We go into every game, every practice, and the goal is to win. The game against Penn was unfortunate for us because the calls didn’t fall our way, but we put that behind us, and we keep moving.”
The Bulldogs introduced a new 3–5–2 formation in last week’s 1–1 tie against Penn, and they will use this formation against Columbia.
“I think it puts more pressure on our defenders … but that pressure is taken away by the numbers we have up in the midfield,” midfielder Frannie Coxe ’15 said. “Games are won or lost in the midfield, so if we’re able to control that area of the field, the number of defenders shouldn’t matter.”
Coxed said that playing five midfielders will help create more opportunities to attack the opposing teams’ defenses.
Midfielder Meredith Speck ’15 added that the 3–5–2 formation plays to the team’s strengths because of injuries the defense has faced this year.
The Yale offense has not seen significant success since the team’s 4–0 win at Marist over two weeks ago, but forward Melissa Gavin ’15 remains second in the Ancient Eight with nine goals and 21 points.
The biggest challenge for the Elis may be the Lions’ offense, whose total of 25 goals is tied for second in the Ivy League. Yale is second-worst in the conference with 22 goals against and worst in the league with 1.64 goals against per game.
Columbia forward Beverly Leon is the team’s leading attacker with seven goals and 20 points this season, third best in the Ivy League. Those numbers are fourth and third best in the Ivy League, respectively. Three of her goals came in the Lions’ most recent matchups against Princeton and Dartmouth.
“[Columbia] play[s] very [directly], and they really work to get the ball over the top,” McSweeney said. “We like to put the ball on the ground and play it around, whereas they play a little bit more of a long ball. Our biggest goal is to keep the ball on the ground, work it through our midfield and use combinations in order to get around them.”
This week, the Bulldogs have been preparing for Columbia’s offense by scrimmaging against themselves, with one side playing according to the Lions’ style of play and the other practicing its defense against it. McSweeney said that this is a typical practice strategy for the team.
After the Columbia game, the Elis will travel back to New Haven to play Brown on Friday , Nov. 8, in their final home game and the last game that will count toward Ivy League rankings.
Yale and Columbia will square off in the Big Apple on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.