When the women’s soccer team hosts Hartford Saturday at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium, the Bulldogs won’t hold anything back.
“We’re not backing down,” said head coach Rudy Meredith. “Before, we’ve been very concerned about them. But this year they are going to have to be concerned about us.”
Though Yale (2-1-1) has never beaten Hartford (3-2-0), Meredith says this is their year. Coming off a 6-1 crusade over Holy Cross, the Bulldogs are as confident as ever entering Saturday’s contest.
“We gained a lot of confidence [Tuesday]. We know we can score,” said captain Ali Cobbett ’03. “All the forwards are really excited. The whole team is fired up.”
Though plagued by defensive lapses and missed scoring opportunities in a 2-0 loss to Princeton, the Bulldogs got their act together against the Crusaders.
Well-executed combination sets and passes broke down the Holy Cross backfield, allowing the Bulldogs to convert on six of their 30 shots on goal. Five of Yale’s goals were assisted.
“Our combination plays are working and our passing is more natural than in years passed,” said Eleni Benson ’05. “We have to continue to play well as a team.”
Yale will rely on the same collectively productive play Saturday as it looks for its first win ever over the Hawks.
Yale has so far received production from some very unlikely positions. Jamie Ortega ’06, who was not expected to factor into the scoring scheme until later in the season, leads the team with two goals.
The defense has also been outstanding, pacing the offense at times. Benson, a defender who found the back of the net twice Tuesday, is the team’s point leader.
“Everyone has been playing so well. We have been getting production from every spot on the field,” Meredith said. “Even our defenders are scoring. We’ll need that type of production again if we plan to beat Hartford.”
A win against the Hawks would establish Yale among the elite of collegiate women’s soccer and edge the team closer to its goal of a bid to the NCAA tournament. But despite the Elis’ recent offensive production and new-found confidence, Hartford still poses a daunting challenge.
The Hawks, a perennial powerhouse and NCAA tourney regular, return from a strong showing at the Maryland/Fila Classic and look to extend their undefeated streak against the Elis. But head coach Eva Bergsten realizes that Yale has one of its best teams in years.
“In the past, all the games [against Yale] have been really close. All of my players know that Yale is closing the gap,” said Bergsten, who is the fiancee of the Yale head coach Rudy Meredith.
“It’s more than just a game,” she said. “I want him to win all of his games, except this one of course.”
Hartford’s roster, loaded with savvy upperclassmen, boasts the experience the Hawks hope will prevail over Yale’s youth.
“Our girls have played together for a couple years,” Bergsten said. “They are very mature.”
Neither team, however, expects to alter its general game plans heading into this weekend’s match-up.
“Hartford is really good. In the past, we have had to change our game plans. But we are looking to play our game this time,” Cobbett said.