A bruised and battered women’s soccer team went into Tuesday’s game with the University of Hartford hoping to snap a three-game losing streak. Instead, it came away with its third 1-0 loss in its last four games.
Hartford (5-2) defeated the Bulldogs (3-4, 0-2 Ivy) on a gift from the Eli defense. At 5:50 in the first half, Hawks freshman Malin Engman blasted a shot past goalkeeper Lindsay Sabel ’03 after a Yale defensive lapse.
“We gave them a goal,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “It was not a great goal; it was one of the only really major mistakes we made defensively.”
Despite the early goal, Sabel would go on to have one of the best performances of her career, tallying 13 saves.
“She was making saves left and right,” captain Sara Ruiz ’02 said. “One time it was like ‘go-go Gadget arms’ — her arms came out of nowhere.”
On offense, however, injuries to several of the team’s strikers exacerbated the Bulldogs’ recent woes. Chandra King ’03, who has five points this season, is suffering from a hip flexor injury. Also, a pulled quadriceps muscle has hampered Ruiz all season.
“We’ve had a lot of recurring injuries,” Ruiz said. “[Some players are] cleared to play but are not really at a hundred percent.”
As a result, Meredith was forced to move backfield players into unfamiliar offensive positions. Midfielders Lindsay Demaree ’05 and Erin Ruck ’05 and defender Ritha Belizaire ’02 all saw action on the front line.
“It’s hard to improve your offense when your offensive players are hurt,” Meredith said. “We’re trying to make defensive players into offensive players.”
Using the different combinations of strikers, the Bulldogs tried to force the Hawk defense into making mistakes. Meredith went deep into his bench to allow a fresh set of forwards to keep the pressure on Hartford defenders.
“It worked well because you knew that you didn’t have to conserve your energy for any period of time [because] there were fresh legs on the bench,” Belizaire said. “I think it was a great idea and it made everyone work harder.”
In spite of the strong defensive performance and the willingness of players to assume unfamiliar roles, Yale ultimately logged its fourth straight defeat.
“We’ve been working really hard so it’s sort of frustrating to keep losing by one goal,” Belizaire said. “We’re going to have to channel that frustration.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they will not have much of an opportunity to rest their ailing players. This Saturday they face Dartmouth, their third consecutive nationally ranked opponent.
“We definitely want get the win in,” Ruiz said. “Scoring a goal and holding [Dartmouth] is our key against them.”
The Big Green (2-2, 1-1 Ivy) was ranked No. 21 in the preseason NSCAA/Adidas National Rankings but is averaging just 1.2 goals per game this season. Still, the team does have some potent strikers. Junior Annie Gibson has tallied six points for the Big Green this season, including one game-winning goal.
On defense, the Big Green has allowed just one goal per game. To jump-start the offense, Meredith said he will rest his players this week to get them ready for Saturday.
“Right now we know what we have to do; there is not a different game plan,” Meredith said. “We need to try to get some players back and focus on the few [offensive] opportunities we have.”