For a moment, as Stu Yingst’s ’03 slow-roller passed through Columbia goalie Mike Ewer’s legs and over the goal line, it seemed that the men’s soccer team had finally fallen upon some good luck. After three straight losses and a debilitating mid-game injury to goalie Russ Stroud ’04, Yingst’s tying goal with just over a minute remaining looked as if it would reverse the Bulldogs’ recent bad fortunes.
But after missing several opportunities in the first overtime, the Elis (5-5-2, 1-3-1 Ivy) fell to the No. 25 Columbia Lions (6-3-2, 3-1-1 Ivy) 2-1 Saturday in a double overtime game. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Bulldogs, who find themselves at .500 after losing only one of their first eight games. Head coach Brian Tompkins, however, did not see the recent slump as indicative of the team’s overall play.
“It’s kind of ironic that we have a losing streak going when our play is getting better,” Tompkins said. “It’s a bit of a paradox, really, because we’re playing quite well at the moment, but we just can’t seem to make the breaks go our way in terms of scoring.”
Columbia’s Alejandro Berthe-Suarez scored at 106:36 to hand the Bulldogs their third Ivy loss of the season, after Yale had dominated much of the game.
The two teams matched up evenly during the first half, and at halftime the score stood 0-0 with Columbia outshooting Yale 7-4.
“We played pretty well, we moved the ball better than we have, and we had a fair amount of pretty good chances that we just couldn’t get in,” captain Brian Lavin ’02 said.
During the second half, the momentum seemed to shift to the Elis’ side as they put more pressure on the Lions.
But midway through the second half Stroud, who has been solid in goal for Yale throughout the season, was injured in a collision with a Columbia player.
“The other guy went to head the ball and missed — he basically headed Russ’s ear,” Tompkins said.
Stroud lay motionless on the field following the collision, and for 10 minutes the game was delayed while worried teammates and doctors gathered around him. He was taken away in an ambulance with a concussion and possible inner ear damage.
“It was a situation where both players were going for the ball, and it’s one of those things that is part of the game,” Lavin said. “Accidents obviously happen and hopefully he’ll recover soon — our thoughts are with Russ.”
The Elis have been stretched thin at the goalkeeper position after original starter Geoff Hollington ’04 developed a herniated disk in his back and was redshirted in order to undergo surgery. Stroud was called up to replace him after only one game, and in 11 games he has recorded 42 saves.
After Hollington’s departure, the Bulldogs sought out Dan Grimm ’05, a lacrosse recruit who had played goalie in high school, as an “emergency fill-in,” according to Tompkins.
Grimm was put in for the remainder of the second half and handled his role well, recording two saves in regulation, but with four minutes remaining in the game Columbia was able to convert a throw-in into a goal when Jon Mycroft crossed the ball to Oladero Ola-Niyi for the 1-0 lead.
Lavin said that giving up goals on set plays, such as throw-ins, free kicks, and corner kicks, has been a trend in Yale’s recent losses to Fairfield University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Connecticut.
“Basically, the lesson to be learned in this situation is that you win and lose games based upon what you do inside the penalty box both defensively and offensively,” he said.
Offensively, the Bulldogs have had trouble converting chances into goals of late, and it seemed that this game would end 1-0 until the Bulldogs finally caught a lucky break.
Jon Skalecki ’05 crossed the ball off a corner kick, and the ball fell to Yingst. Yingst hit a slow-rolling shot that found its way through the legs of Columbia goalie Mike Ewers, tying the score at 1-1 and sending the game into overtime.
In the first overtime period, Yale dominated play, recording four shots. But despite outplaying Columbia, the Elis could not score the winning goal.
“In the first overtime we had a lot of chances to score but we hit the crossbar, the goalie made saves, and we missed a couple of opportunities by inches,” Tompkins said. “We felt like we were going to win because we had so much pressure.”
But the game quickly turned. Just two minutes into the second overtime, a Yale free kick bounced off the Columbia wall to the Lions’ Justin Sellman. Sellman passed upfield to Berthe-Suarez, who dribbled the ball nearly 60 yards before putting it past Grimm for the winning goal.
The team will need to bounce back from their recent losses when it travels Wednesday to Long Island to face No. 7 St. John’s University. The Bulldogs will be playing without Stroud, who is expected to be out for at least two weeks, if not for the rest of the season.
Despite a tough schedule that also includes Princeton University and Loyola University, Tompkins remained optimistic.
“There’s no amount of difficulty or adversity that can get our guys down,” he said. “They’ve been playing really well and they’ve worked hard and they’ve really impressed me with their attitude and approach. We still believe we can win every game we play.”