Yale women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith says this year’s squad is the best he’s seen in years.

“As far as unity goes, it’s the best it’s ever been. [There is no one on the team] who doesn’t want to be in this environment,” he said.

But ironically, such unity on the field visually translates into a spread-out formation of players — Yale’s greatest strength lies in its strategically executed and rigorous passing game. Time after time in their first two games — which have ended in a tie and a win — Yale players have completed advantageous and difficult passes that have left opponents dazzled.

“Passing is a good strength for us,” said team captain Ali Cobbett ’03, noting that the team’s combination of youth and experience has been electric this year.

Indeed, Cobbett says 2002’s team is the best she has played for in her four years at Yale, and Meredith said this weekend’s game against Princeton could be a preview of the 2002 Ivy Championship game.

The last time Yale won an Ivy title was 1992, its only one to date. Last year, the Bulldogs went 7-8-2 overall. But Cobbett said the difference between last season’s team and this season’s is palpable and exciting.

“We’re hoping to do really well this season,” she said. “It’s the first year where we’ve had real strength on the bench. That’s because the freshmen are so good.”

Already the class of 2006 has marked its talent for this Bulldog team in a highly tangible fashion.

In the team’s first game of the year, midfielder Laurel Karnes ’06 scored a crucial goal early in the second half that tied a game in which Yale unambiguously outplayed its opponent, La Salle University.

Karnes sees athleticism as the team’s number one asset.

“Fitness was a big thing for us in the preseason and so far, we haven’t lost a game to fitness. We went to double overtime with La Salle and were able to stick with them,” she said.

And in the team’s second game, Jamie Ortega ’06 scored, continuing the freshman hot streak.

Midfielder Eleni Benson ’05, who was involved in the plays that produced both goals, said that even disappointing results like ties leave her inspired by her team’s depth and talent.

“I’m not disappointed with our play,” Benson said. “We have more people who can score [than last year’s team] and a solid defense.”

But experience will also factor in this year’s future successes, and a player who can score is midfielder Lauren Gillies ’03, who returns to the field after missing all last season with an injury. As a sophomore, Gillies had finished fourth on the team in scoring, and she is a defensive threat as well.

Of 16 letterwinners on last year’s roster, 13 return in 2002. Of 11 starters, eight return.

Among them is Jennie Garver ’03, who has been called one of the best defenders in the Ivy League, and goalkeepers Lindsay Sabel ’03 and Sarah Walker ’05, who will keep scores low this season.

And luckily for Yale, the overwhelming majority of their games in the first half of the season will be played at home, in the Yale Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.

“No one wants to let one another down — if one person gets frustrated, we all do,” Karnes said. “We want to win the Ivy League, but that’s every year. We just want to play well.”