Penalty kicks and stingy goalkeeping proved to be the determining factors in the Yale men’s club soccer team’s strong showing at the Penn State Tournament Saturday.
The Elis won, 2-1, against Penn State in the morning, and tied, 1-1, against Navy in the evening at the Penn State fields, increasing their record to 5-1-3 for the season. Penn State and Navy were No. 5 and No. 1, respectively, in the Northeast Region.
The Bulldogs were scheduled to play Cornell on Sunday, but the Big Red was not able to field a team.
“We did well [at the tournament],” co-captain Christian Dietrich ’05 said. “We didn’t finish as well as we should have, but we came away with good results. We dominated a [large portion of play] in both games.”
The game against Penn State was not without its share of controversy. Near the beginning of the game, a shot by Penn State bounced off the top crossbar of the goal and onto the ground. The referee and the linesman disagreed over whether the goal should count, but eventually the referee acquiesed and gave the Nittany Lions the point. Nevertheless, the Elis took the unfavorable ruling in stride.
Towards the end of the first half, co-captain George Quraishi ’05 scored on a penalty kick. Midway through the second half, keeper Michael Schoell ’06 blocked a penalty kick, preventing Penn State from taking the lead. Later in the half, Quraishi then scored his second point of the game on another penalty kick.
“We were disappointed because we felt the goal shouldn’t have counted,” Dietrich said. “But fortunately we were able to get another goal off a penalty kick anyway.”
In the second game of the weekend against Navy, co-captain Lucas Knowles ’05 scored the Elis’ lone penalty kick near the end of the first half. Midway through the second half, however, a Navy left midfielder placed a shot into the opposite side netting of the goal. Schoell touched the ball but could not stop it. Schoell had another impressive showing, making several saves throughout the game to keep the game close.
Even without a win against Navy, Yale was proud of its accomplishment.
“We really stepped it up [against Navy],” said midfielder Jonathan Swanson ’05. “Their guys were bigger and stronger than ours, but we played better. It was definitely our best game of the season.”
Despite such a strong showing, the Bulldogs understand that they still need to improve.
“Since we scored all of our goals on penalty kicks, one of the biggest things we need to work on is finishing on offense,” Quraishi said. “We had a lot of opportunities that we couldn’t capitalize on, and we were lucky to get those penalty kicks called for us.”
During the tournament, the team also had to deal with several key injuries among its defenders.
A Penn State player, cleats pointed upwards, tackled backfielder Ratko Jovic ’07 during play and left a large cut along Jovic’s shin. Steve Chapin ’07 also injured his knee during the game against Penn State.
The Bulldogs’ performance at the tournament prepares them for the Northeast Regional Tournament at Princeton this weekend, where Yale will face Penn State, Princeton and Johns Hopkins. The Elis said they are confident about their chances.
“We really bonded over the last game [against Navy],” said Swanson. “Now we’re really psyched about the tournament. It’s a chance to prove how good our team is. We think we’re better than all the other teams out there.”
If the Elis can take one of the top two spots at the Northeast Regional Tournament, they will qualify for national competition.