After last season’s painful late season collapse, the Bulldogs are determined not to let history repeat itself.
The Elis (8-3-1, 1-2-1 Ivy) look to regain their successful form Saturday when they host Columbia in a game that could direct the rest of their season.
“It’s night and day from last year,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Last year, we got so depleted with injuries that it was difficult for us to really overcome some pretty good teams at the end of season. This year, our talent pool is better, and we have absolutely every intention of having a strong finish to the season.”
Aside from the injury to captain Stu Yingst ’03 in last weekend’s loss to Pennsylvania, the Bulldogs are relatively healthy. Yingst will not play Saturday, but Tompkins said his roster is deep enough to compensate.
While it is easy to draw parallels between last season and this one, this year’s team is deeper, more talented, and, having suffered a poor finish once, will not let one happen again.
“In order to avoid doing a end of the season slide, we have to keep our heads focused on each game plan and just execute,” said defender Brian Roberts ’04, who has been one of Yale’s most dependable and consistent players this fall. “Last year’s slide was not us being a bad team. It was just lack of execution.”
For this particular game plan, Roberts and the rest of the defense effectively must contain several of Columbia’s skilled forwards.
Tommy McMenemy has proven himself dangerous, scoring five goals and adding three assists. Those stats place him in the Ivy League top 10 offensive players.
In addition, last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Stephen Foster, has returned from a season-long injury and the Elis will need to stifle his comeback attempts.
With a week off since the team’s devastating loss to Penn, where the Quakers came from behind to maintain their undefeated Ivy League record, the Bulldogs have had time to evaluate the remainder of the season.
“We have worked on a little finishing, other than that we have just worked on our normal game plan, so we can keep the ball moving,” Roberts said. “There’s no need to revamp our game plan or anything.”
While the Elis are still fully in the hunt to receive a berth in the NCAA postseason tournament, Tompkins is quick to point out that he does not want his players to be focus exclusively on the playoffs.
“We talked the other day about not worrying about things we don’t have control over anymore,” he said. “It can be a real distraction to keep all these permutations in your head — like if this team beats that team and that team loses to this team — that it can just take on a life of its own.”
Forward Jay Alberts ’03 agreed. Alberts said Yale must focus on each game separately before looking at the eventual result.
“There is still a lot to play for,” Alberts said. “It’s been a good season, but I am confident we can accomplish a lot more if we come together determined and focus on each play of the games as if it were our last.”
Midfielder Ryan Raybould ’05, who is tied for the Ivy League lead in shot attempts, is also a threat to the Columbia defense. Raybould scored the Elis’ lone goal against Penn.
“At this point, our goal is to play well, win out the rest of our games and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament,” Alberts said.