When the women’s soccer team travels to Hanover, N.H. to take on Dartmouth Sunday, the Bulldogs’ postseason hopes will be on the line.

“We can’t lose again,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We have got to keep our conference loss total at one.”

Since dropping its conference opener to Princeton, the Bulldogs (6-2-1, 1-1 Ivy) have been chasing the nationally ranked No. 18 Tigers for the Ivy League championship. A second loss would virtually eliminate Yale from contention for the automatic NCAA tournament bid awarded to the top Ivy League team, Meredith said.

“With teams like Princeton and Harvard, we have to win the rest of our Ivy League games,” he said.

Yale recorded its first conference victory with a 2-0 rout over Cornell Sept. 29, avenging last year’s overtime loss to the Big Red.

But the Elis face another big opponent in the Big Green (5-3-1, 1-1 Ivy).

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve never beaten Dartmouth at Dartmouth,” Meredith said.

But the Bulldogs, who defeated the University of Hartford for the first time ever last month, have proved this year is not like years past.

“We’ve been producing a lot more this year. We’ve been working really hard and we just want to win more,” midfielder Eleni Benson ’05 said. “Dartmouth is very good. We are going to have to play our best. It’s going to be a battle.”

Sunday’s game has regional ramifications, too. Dartmouth is ranked No. 3 in the Northeast — a win against the Big Green Sunday would improve the Bulldogs’ chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

“The top three or four teams in the region usually get to go to the NCAAs, and I think we can get there,” Meredith said.

But Dartmouth will provide some serious competition for Yale, who is coming off a 1-0 loss to No. 8 University of Connecticut.

The Huskies edged the Bulldogs with a direct free kick that curved over the head of goalkeeper Lindsay Sabel ’03 into the net. Play was fairly even, but for the first time this season Yale was outshot by its opponents. The Bulldogs will look to turn things around against Dartmouth and regain their potent offensive form.

“We did pretty good against [Connecticut]. We were able to play with one of the best teams in the country,” Meredith said. “The offense might have struggled to get shots, and we might have been a little intimidated by their defense. We need the offense to step up Sunday.”

The defense, the backbone of the team, has been rock-solid. Over the last six games, Yale has allowed just four goals.

“The defense has been really good lately,” Meredith said. “We’re going to look to shut [Dartmouth] out.”