What a difference three weeks makes.
After a 1-0 overtime loss to Dartmouth (7-5-2, 4-0-1 Ivy) on Oct. 11, the women’s soccer team was winless in the Ancient Eight and shared the conference basement with Columbia (5-7-3, 0-3-2). Twenty days later, the Bulldogs (9-5-1, 2-2-1) are tied for fourth in the conference and have kept alive hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament. The Elis will visit New York tomorrow to play the last place Lions.
Wednesday night’s 3-0 shutout of Fairfield University (8-8-1) extended Yale’s season-high winning streak to four games, during which the Elis have outscored their opponents 9-3.
“It helps to be on a winning streak,” captain Lee Anne Jasper ’04 said. “People are more positive.”
Jasper has six assists — the second-most in the Ivy League.
Defender Christina Huang ’07 scored the game-winner — the first tally of her career — 58 seconds into the match.
“Mimi [Macauley ’07] had the ball, I saw her and knew I was wide open,” said Huang, who is battling a nagging back injury. “I called for it, she crossed it, I took a touch, and I shot it with my left foot low to the left corner [from] 18 [yards out].”
Midfielder Laurel Karnes ’06 scored her team-leading eighth and ninth goals of the season to seal the victory.
Starting goalie Sarah Walker ’05 and back-up goalie Chloe Beizer ’07 combined for a two-save shutout, the team’s seventh of the season. Yale has not allowed a goal in nearly 250 minutes of play.
“Our defense has been playing really well,” Walker said. “[Our] communication and work ethic have been really good.”
The Bulldogs are certainly peaking at the right time.
After head coach Rudy Meredith tweaked the starting lineup and formation for most of the season, the Bulldogs found success with three forwards up front instead of two. The team is undefeated since the change in strategy took place in the second half against Cornell (7-5-2, 1-3-1) on Oct. 18. The Elis won the game 2-1 in overtime.
“It’s easier for everyone to fit into their role with three forwards up top,” Walker said. “The two forwards can spread it out a little more.”
In the midst of the win streak, the team’s freshmen have played like veterans.
“In the beginning of the season it was really difficult, especially for the freshmen, because we didn’t know how our teammates played,” Huang said. “We have a formation now that fits everyone’s style of play.”
Along with Huang’s goal against the Stags, Macauley added two assists Wednesday night and scored the game winner Oct. 25 against the University of Pennsylvania (6-5-3, 1-3-1).
“[The freshmen have] definitely been a pretty big part of the [team all] season,” Walker said. “Now that we have solidified our lineup and everyone’s playing in a position where they feel more comfortable, they’ve been able to step it up even more.”
The Lions will have their own rookie scoring threat on the field tomorrow.
Forward Shannon Munoz leads Columbia in scoring with four goals and three assists for 11 points. Munoz scored the game-tying goal against first place Dartmouth on Oct. 25, the first time the Big Green did not defeat a conference opponent. The Lions defeated Seton Hall (5-12-1) on Wednesday.
“[Columbia is] all over the board, [but] every Ivy game I’ve played in has been a battle,” Jasper said. “You have to show your best face.”
The Bulldogs only have two games remaining in the regular season. Although a share of the Ivy League title is unlikely, a return to the postseason might be possible if they can keep riding their current win streak.
“Because our schedule is so strong and because the only teams we’ve lost to have been ranked or will probably end up winning their leagues, as long as we win the next two games, we have a shot,” Walker said.
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