With 10 minutes remaining on the game clock and the Bulldogs up 2-0, men’s soccer team head coach Brian Tompkins found himself with a rare opportunity.
It was the first time this season the Bulldogs held a two-goal lead, and with victory ostensibly secured, Tompkins considered giving his starters some rest. But before he could make any changes, William Boulton scored to pull the Central Connecticut Blue Devils within a goal. Tompkins, though still confident, decided to leave his starters on the field.
In the end, the decision was inconsequential. Not even the starters could withstand Central Connecticut’s late surge. The Blue Devils notched two more goals, including the game-winner at 89:42, to upset the Bulldogs, 3-2, at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium Wednesday.
“They didn’t stop fighting,” Tompkins said. “We paid the price. We lost our concentration and made some errors in judgment.”
The first half of the game was fairly lackluster. Both teams had ample scoring chances, but neither could produce a goal.
Yale (8-6-0, 3-1-0 Ivy) eventually broke the gridlock. At 56:28, Lindsey Williams ’05 capitalized on a breakaway to put the Bulldogs up, 1-0. They added to their lead in the 79th minute when Ryan Raybould ’05 connected on a direct kick from 25 yards out.
“I was pleased with our play in the beginning of the second half,” Tompkins said. “We were moving the ball well and creating chances for ourselves.”
Then the Blue Devils (9-2-3) put together a brilliant 10-minute performance.
Boulton got Central Connecticut on the board in the 83rd minute.
“I was on the bench and we were saying ‘There goes the shutout,'” Gage Hills ’07 said. “We didn’t think anything of it. We were still confident we were going to win.”
Nearly three minutes later, the Blue Devils tied the game on an own goal. John Pilkington sent a cross in front that was kicked in by Shannon Brooks ’06.
In the final minute, Alex Harrison headed in a Pilkington free kick to cap the comeback.
“It was embarrassing,” Hills said. “It was a game we should not have lost.”
Tompkins praised the Blue Devils for their resolve.
“Central is a team based on enthusiasm and team chemistry,” Tompkins said. “They’re very emotional and they rode their emotion. [The first goal] ignited them. It deflated us.”
The breakdown was reminiscent of the Creighton game on Sept. 21. The Bulldogs had jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but in a span of four minutes, the Blue Jays scored three goals and went on to win, 3-1.
“We learned the lesson again the hard way,” Tompkins said. “We find ourselves back in that situation. It’s definitely frustrating.”
If anything positive came from the Creighton loss, it was the Bulldogs’ five-game winning streak that followed.
Tompkins said he hopes for a similar response to Wednesday’s loss.
“The alarm bells definitely went off,” Tompkins said. “We know we can’t let what happened against Central happen again.”
Yale returns to action when it takes on nationally-ranked No. 23 Columbia (9-3-1, 2-2-1), in New York Saturday. The Lions have not dropped a contest since losing to Brown in overtime, 1-0, on Oct. 4.
“Columbia is a very talented team,” Tompkins said. “They have skill and excellent team speed. It’s an opportunity for us to play a nationally ranked team and put things right.”
More than that, it will be an opportunity for the Bulldogs to keep their postseason hopes alive. The loss to Central all but eliminated them from contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA College Cup.
Yale’s shot at making the tournament now rests in winning the Ivy League championship.
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