If the men’s soccer team had lost yesterday, it would have been understandable. After all, the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers came into the game with three things in their favor — their number eight ranking, their four victories in four games and their zero goals allowed.
But Yale (4-1, 0-1 Ivy) dealt a blow to the No. 8 Blazers’ (4-1) perfect record, goals-against average and — in all likelihood — national ranking, with an overtime header from Brian Larkin ’02 that won them the game, 2-1, and this weekend’s Yale-Fila tournament, held at the Soccer-Lacrosse stadium.
The win came after Friday night’s 1-0 victory over Tulsa (3-4), which was the result of a second-half goal by Andrew Dealy ’05.
Larkin’s goal, which came off a Brian Roberts ’04 cross nearly 10 minutes into overtime, gave the Elis the sudden-death victory. Larkin deferred most of the credit to Roberts, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player for his defensive prowess against both teams.
“Basically, Brian [Roberts] did the whole thing,” Larkin said of his header. “It was an incredible pass in, and it’s tough to miss a shot when he’s giving you such a great ball like that.”
The goal won a game that had been in a 1-1 tie since the 47th minute, and elicited joyous cheers both in the stands and on the field.
“Larkin and I ran in at the same time, and I cut to the near post, so the ball went over my head,” Dealy said. “I looked over to see the ball going in, and then it was just celebration.”
Dealy had been involved in the first Bulldog goal, which came off a series of freshman plays. In the 39th minute, Jon Skalecki ’05 chipped the ball to Dealy, who redirected it in midair with a header. Ryan Raybould ’05 was there to forcefully volley the ball into the goal.
“I saw Andrew flicking the ball, so I ran inside and volleyed it into the net,” Raybould said.
Head coach Brian Tompkins was pleased with the freshman’s effort.
“We have a good foundation of talent that we continue to strengthen,” he said. “You want to put yourself in a situation where you can play with the best in the country.”
The one-goal lead did not last long, however, as the Blazers took advantage of a miscommunication in front of the Yale net in the 47th minute. Senior Rey Martin scored an unassisted goal for UAB to tie the game, which remained that way for the rest of regulation, despite numerous Yale chances.
“We were a little disappointed to give the goal away, but we turned it up hard after that,” Larkin said.
Near the end of the game, the Elis had a flurry of shots that UAB freshman goalie Clint Baumstark stopped in a series of seemingly impossible saves.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” Larkin said. “They kept stopping us, but it made us more hungry. We eventually did it and got the ball in.”
Baumstark ended the game with six saves, while Yale goalie Russ Stroud ’04 finished with three. The Elis outshot the Blazers 16-10.
The game was hard fought. UAB had 22 fouls and three yellow cards, and the Bulldogs were called for 17 fouls and one yellow card.
“There was a lot of cheap stuff going on behind the play,” Dealy said. “It was like the classic college game I’ve heard about. But we’ve got some tough guys on our team.”
The victory was the second time the Bulldogs have beaten a ranked team in the last week. On Monday, they defeated then-No. 16 Rhode Island, 2-1.
“When you work hard and play disciplined soccer, good things happen. I’m pleased, but not surprised,” Tompkins said.
UAB head coach Mike Getman, a former Harvard mentor, was impressed by Yale’s focus.
“If they work that hard every day, I don’t know that they’ll lose many more,” Getman said. “The key to success is working hard and playing smart, and that’s what they did today.”
The game was the second win of the weekend for the Elis, who were hosting the Fifth Annual Yale-Fila Classic. Friday night, they defeated Tulsa, 1-0.
“That game was a real battle,” Tompkins said. “It was a hard-fought game, and they nearly got the better of us. In the first half, we were passive, but we did a good job of pressuring in the second half.”
Dealy’s goal followed from a header by Steve Gibbons ’03 and occurred about five minutes into the second half.
“There was a cross from Gibbons, who was standing right at the post. He headed it across and I half-volleyed it in low,” Dealy said.
After that, the Elis relied on strong defense from their backs and midfielders to maintain the lead.
Four Bulldogs were named to the Classic’s All-Tournament team: Larkin, captain Brian Lavin ’02, Dealy and the MVP, Roberts.
Although the team endured a weekend of rough and aggressive play, there will be no rest for the weary. The Bulldogs resume play Wednesday when they host the Hartford Hawks at 3 p.m.
“We’re going to count our wounded and see who we’ve got to work with for Wednesday,” Tompkins said. “We’ll figure it out at practice on Tuesday.”
The Hawks (4-1) enter the game coming off a 2-0 upset of Boston College.
“Hartford is a tough team, and whenever you play in-state and in your region, the games are very important,” Larkin said. “We have to look past [these wins] and start thinking about them.”