Prior to this season, goalkeeper Matt Aleksinas ’06 had started just one game for the Yale men’s soccer team. But in his last 270 minutes, he has played more like a grizzled veteran than a green sophomore.
Aleksinas posted his third consecutive shutout as Yale blanked Harvard 1-0 on Saturday at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. The game was the Ivy League opener for both teams.
“What people need to remember is that Matt [Aleksinas] is a young goalie,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “He’s involved with on-the-job training. His confidence is beginning to grow and he’s been playing very well.”
The lone goal of the game came on a converted penalty kick from Eli forward Andrew Dealy ’05 early in the first half. Dealy also scored the game-winning goal on a penalty kick to sink then No. 19 Stanford, 2-1, on Sept. 14.
“Dealy’s able to stay calm under pressure,” Tompkins said. “It doesn’t faze him.”
At 8:34, Harvard (3-3-2, 0-1 Ivy) was called for a handball in its box and Yale (4-3-0, 1-0) was awarded a penalty kick. Players and coaches on the bench rose, arms linked in anticipation, and looked on as Dealy fired the ball into the left corner of the net to put Yale up, 1-0.
The Bulldogs came close to extending their lead several times during the remainder of the game. Lindsey Williams ’05, whose impressive footwork was on full display, penetrated the Crimson backline with relative ease. But neither he nor any other Bulldog was able add an insurance goal.
Meanwhile, Yale’s defense dominated, limiting the Cantabs to eight shots. Harvard’s best scoring chance came late in the second half, when Matt Hoff’s shot from 10 yards out sailed well over the net.
“It helps to know that we can hold a good team scoreless,” defender Shannon Brooks ’06 said. “It’s good for our confidence.”
Aleksinas has been the crucial cog in a refocused and much-improved Yale defense. The sophomore, who has a 1.00 goal against average, has not allowed a goal in 278 minutes and 41 seconds of play, dating back to the first half of the Creighton game on Sept. 21. He was named Ivy League Player of the Week yesterday in recognition of his efforts.
Brooks has played an important role in the turnaround in the Bulldog backfield. The sophomore defender played against Harvard despite breaking his nose in the Bulldogs’ 1-0 upset over the No. 17 Huskies last Wednesday.
“We’ve asked the defense to raise their concentration,” Tompkins said. “They’ve done a pretty good job of that. The last time we lost was because of poor concentration.”
Sunday’s win was Yale’s third in a row after a 1-3 start and marks the second straight season the Elis have commenced conference play with a win.
“It was important to start off with a win,” Brooks said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the Ivy League schedule.”
Tompkins stressed the game’s importance, both in respect to Yale’s playoff hopes and for simple bragging rights.
“It’s one of those games that if you lose, you try to minimize its importance, but if you win, you enjoy it for 12 months,” Tompkins said.
The team will play Fairfield in its next game on Wednesday. The Elis return to Ivy League action when they host Dartmouth this Saturday.
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