The women’s soccer team had two chances this weekend to avoid finishing below 0.500 for the first time since 2001, but the Bulldogs came up empty.
Riddled by injuries, Yale (7–8–1, 2–4–1 Ivy) hosted Brown (10–6–1, 4–2–1) on Friday night and lost 3–1 in its final Ivy League match of the year. The Bears then beat the Elis 2–1 on Sunday in Providence, R.I.
Yale also had an outside shot at finishing in third place in the conference when they kicked off against Brown on Senior Night in Reese Stadium. Forward Melissa Gavin ’15 scored her 11th goal of the season, but it was not enough and Yale was doomed to finish fifth in the Ivy League following the loss.
After pregame festivities to honor Yale’s five departing seniors (defender Shannon McSweeney ’14, midfielder Juliann Jeffrey ’14, defender Anna McCahon ’14, forward/midfielder Jessica Schloth ’14 and defender Katie Underwood ’14) took place, the mood quickly shifted from celebratory to bewildered.
Just two minutes and 45 seconds into the match, Brown forward Kiersten Berg managed to find and direct in a sloppily handled corner kick that was deflected and touched by numerous players from each side. When the dust cleared and the goal had been scored, Yale found itself in a far-too-familiar situation: behind.
“That was the first chance they had and when you give up the first chance they get, now we got to chase again,” said head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We’ve been chasing too many games and when you chase games, you’re not going to win a lot of them.”
Including Sunday’s effort, Yale has allowed the first goal of the game in nine of 16 matches. In those nine games, the Bulldogs are 1–8–0.
The rest of the first half saw chances from each side go unfulfilled, and the 1–0 Brown advantage remained when both teams entered the locker room at halftime. Coming out of the break, Brown struck quickly once again.
This time, the Bears needed a mere 15 seconds to find the back of the net. Back Alison Mullin earned the score, her first since Sept. 18, 2011. For her next goal, there would be no such time gap.
Just four minutes later, Mullin struck again, providing even more insurance for the Bears. The 3–0 deficit would be too much for Yale to overcome, though the Bulldogs did respond quickly.
Two minutes after Mullin’s second and final goal, Gavin connected on a free kick from 30 yards out in the 51st minute. Gavin was able to bend the shot and deflect it off the cross bar and in, just out of the reach of Brown goalkeeper MC Barrett.
Gavin’s goal was her 11th of the season, and despite being held scoreless on Sunday, her total was enough to secure a tie for the Ivy League lead in goals scored. Harvard forward Margaret Purce also scored 11 goals on the season. As far as goals per game are concerned, Gavin is the undisputed league leader, as her 11 goals came in one fewer game than for Purce.
“Overall, I’m happy with my performance this season but I know I haven’t played my best soccer yet,” Gavin said. “My teammates put me in great scoring situations and I was lucky enough to put a few of them away.”
The Bulldogs were able to put together a flurry of opportunities in the final 10 minutes, but they could not find a second goal despite well-struck attempts from Gavin, Jeffrey, midfielder Meredith Speck ’15 and midfielder Geny Decker ’17.
The 3–1 Yale defeat was compounded by a 2–1 loss in the season finale on Sunday, at Brown.
Despite being outshot by Yale, Brown managed to build a 2–0 lead off of a first half header by the team’s leading goal scorer, forward Chloe Cross, and a late 87th minute rocket from Berg.
But while the season did not end on a high note, Jeffrey was able to end her career in storybook fashion. On the final touch of her career as a Bulldog, Jeffrey blasted a shot past the Brown keeper for her fifth career goal.
The goal, which cut the deficit in half, came in the 89th minute after Jeffrey weaved her way through the Brown defense, a prime example of the pride and effort that Meredith credits this senior class with having.
“They’ve been very positive through all the ups and downs of the programs and I commended them for hanging in there and trying to get things turned around,” Meredith said. “We’ve taken a big, huge step in the right direction, partly due to their leadership, and we’ve now hopefully set the foundation for what we need to do next year to move up higher in the Ivy League.”
Meredith also said that he was very proud of his team for the resilience it demonstrated all year long, despite a number of injuries that would cause any team to struggle. In the final game on Sunday alone, Speck suffered a knee injury and forward Paula Hagopian ’16 fell victim to what Meredith believes is a separated shoulder.
The fifth place Ivy League finish, though not what the Elis had hoped for nor expected, was still an improvement on last season’s effort when Yale finished sixth in the Ivy table.