The men’s soccer team’s regular season finale featured all the elements that had marked their five previous losses this season: an early goal by the opposing team, followed by complete Eli domination in every area except scoring.
In a frustrating, yet somehow fitting, end to the season, the Bulldogs (9-6-1, 2-4-1 Ivy) outshot Princeton (4-8-5, 2-3-2) by a 22-7 margin, including 12-2 in the second half, but could not manage a goal and fell 1-0 to the Tigers. The game ended the careers of a talented senior class and any hopes of Eli postseason play.
“I’m not sure what positives we can take from the game,” said forward Jay Alberts ’04, who recorded seven shots for Yale. “We need to learn that although we may play a team off the field, we need to be able finish the game off and prove we are a good team.”
In front of 486 fans on hand for Senior Night despite the cold and wet weather, the Bulldogs came out flat against a Princeton team that was determined to finish its season on an upswing.
“We had talked at some length about having a quick start to the game,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “They had an excellent first 10 minutes or so and got themselves a goal, and that was about it. It put us in a situation of having to play catchup again, and we haven’t done well with that recently.”
Last week, the Tigers took the University of Pennsylvania, which previously had been undefeated in the Ancient Eight, into overtime to emerge with a tie.
Princeton dominated the early game, and only five minutes into the contest scored the eventual game-winner.
Freshman Ben Young crossed the ball to a waiting Adrian Melville in front of the Yale net, and Melville did what the Bulldogs failed to do all game: convert a scoring chance. He put the ball past Yale goalie Matt Aleksinas ’06 for the 1-0 lead that would last the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs, as they did against Boston College when they outshot the Eagles 21-6, spent much of the remainder of the game in Princeton’s end.
Promising second half scoring chances for forwards Shannon Brooks ’06 and Louis Pacilio ’06, among others, nearly tied the score for Yale.
It was Pacilio who came closest in the final seconds, but his shot sailed over the crossbar, and Princeton stole the victory.
“It was the same as it’s been in several of the games recently where we create opportunities but we don’t take advantage of them,” Tompkins said. “We paid the ultimate price for that, and obviously, it’s frustrating.”
But Tiger goalie Jason White, playing his second game since returning from an injury, made nine saves en route to his 26th career shutout, putting him atop the Princeton career shutout list.
For the five seniors on the Yale roster, the game put an end to a strong four seasons. The Class of 2003 is the last class to have been to the NCAA tournament. As freshmen, they were on a Bulldog team that upset Rutgers in the first round of the tournament before falling to the University of Connecticut in the second round.
“I don’t know where to begin,” said Alberts, who was part of the outgoing class until missing last season with mononucleosis and deciding to redshirt. “Of course, they brought leadership, experience, and heart. Over the past four years they contributed a lot to shaping the type of team that we have become. They are just an all-around good group of guys on and off the field that made everyone on the team better.”