The women’s soccer team makes its debut in the NCAA College Cup today at Villanova for a first-round matchup against the host Wildcats.

The Bulldogs (11-4-2, 3-3-1 Ivy) learned Monday that they earned one of 35 at-large bids in the 64-team field. But like the men’s basketball team last spring, the Bulldogs are not satisfied with their historic playoff berth.

The Wildcats (14-2-4) will pose a serious challenge to the Elis’ hopes of advancing in the tournament.

“They’re definitely a good team,” forward Chandra King ’03 said. “They’ve only lost two games and they’re in the Big East, which is a really tough conference.”

The Wildcats’ only losses came to top-10 teams, falling to eventual conference champion No. 7 Connecticut in the semifinals of the Big East tournament and No. 9 West Virginia in the regular season.

“They tied Connecticut,” King said. “That says something.”

But the Huskies only edged the Bulldogs 1-0, and Yale has had its share of quality victories this season, including wins over Hartford, Central Connecticut State, Harvard and Cornell.

The Wildcats, who host first and second round games, will have a true home field advantage. Their field is made of artificial grass, a surface unfamiliar to the Bulldogs.

“The field plays to their advantage,” King said. “They’ve played on the artificial grass all year. It will be different for us.”

The Bulldogs left New Haven at 8 a.m. Thursday morning to practice at Villanova. For the Bulldogs, who have a pass-based offense, acclimating to the field conditions is crucial.

As they have throughout the season, the Bulldogs will not stray from their game plan. They will rely on speed up front in forwards King and Lauren Gillies ’03 and a strong defense to thwart the Wildcats.

Yale is undoubtedly the underdog in today’s contest. But it has been a season of firsts for the Bulldogs, and after today’s game the Elis hope they will add to that list with their first tourney win.

“We’re going to be competitive,” King said. “We’ve got nothing to lose.”

The Bulldogs’ loss to Brown last weekend, in what was thought to be a berth-decisive game, almost ended Yale’s chances at a bid.

But the NCAA selection committee granted the Bulldogs a chance to end the season on better terms.

“The loss to Brown left a bitter taste,” King said. “But it might not have been the worst thing.”

The Elis hope their loss to the Bears will be a motivating factor when they take the field today.

“We have another chance to end the season on a good note,” King said. “We’re not going to let this one slip away.”

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