After a disappointing finish in the Ivy League last season, the Yale women’s soccer team is looking for a chance to rebound with new coaches and improved skills, while also working to integrate an exceptionally large freshman class.
Last season, the team finished 7–8–1 overall and 2–4–1 in the Ivy League. The Bulldogs started the season strong, winning four of their first five games. Injuries eventually caught up to them, however, and the squad ended the season on a three-game losing streak.
“We have a few strong players [this year] who were limited last year due to injury but are now healthy and ready to make an impact,” goalkeeper Elise Wilcox ’15 said. “Geny [Decker ’17] made a difference offensively right away her freshman year but was sidelined due to a concussion. Ally Grossman ’16 and Shannon Conneely ’16 both had to take time to recover from knee injuries. Having them both back will really make a difference.”
A number of players said that the recovered team is looking forward to a new season and playing with the 10 freshman recruits. Five of the newcomers were selected for their regional Olympic Development Programs during high school, and many of their club teams were national contenders.
The additions include five defenders, three midfielders and two forwards, both of which can also play midfield.
“All 10 freshmen are great players and will be a big help to our team this year,” defender Dani Temares ’17 said.
In addition to a new class, the team welcomed a new set of coaches. Stuart Dick and Eleri Earnshaw joined the staff as assistant coaches, backing up head coach Rudy Meredith. Dick was a former assistant at the University of Bridgeport, and Earnshaw formerly assisted at Central Connecticut State and Long Island universities.
Wilcox noted that both coaches have already added new ideas and skills to the Yale program, including physiology knowledge and videos of the girls at work.
The team’s new captain, midfielder Meredith Speck ’15, will come into the season with a reputation to uphold after stellar freshman and junior seasons. Twice selected for the all-Ivy first team, Speck will lead the squad into a new season.
“There is a ton of excitement about the upcoming season because each year is a new opportunity to win Ivies and make an impact for the future of the program,” Speck said.
After graduating five seniors — three of whom played in all 16 games — the returning Bulldogs have major shoes to fill.
Five of the returning players scored 10 or more goals last season. These scorers include forward Paula Hagopian ’16, who notched 15 goals, and forward Melissa Gavin ’15 and Speck, who both scored 16. On the other end of the field, goalkeepers Rachel Ames ’16 and Wilcox both tallied at least one shutout last season.
Gavin said that the team established a good dynamic under captain Shannon McSweeney ’14 last year, and the squad plans to continue that dynamic with Speck at the helm.
“If anything, Meredith has continued what Shannon started last year: creating a close group and expecting everyone to do their part to help the team win an Ivy League Championship,” Gavin stated.
The Bulldogs play at home this Friday for their first game of the season, squaring off against Quinnipiac. Play starts at 7:30 p.m.