The women of Eli soccer flew west this weekend, looking for Golden State glory in the Stanford Nike Invitational.

But instead of triumph, the Bulldogs succumbed to perennial national title contenders Santa Clara and Stanford.

No. 19 Yale (5-2-0) dropped its Friday afternoon game against Santa Clara by a 2-0 score. Sunday, Cardinal forward Martha West broke the scoreless tie in the 76th minute of play to give Stanford a 1-0 victory.

The Elis entered the weekend undefeated in their first five games, setting a program record for the best season-opening record. But Santa Clara and Stanford presented the toughest challenge yet to the Yale squad’s perfect mark.

“Either game could have gone either way,” Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said. “They were pretty even match-ups. Originally we signed up for this [West Coast trip] as preparation for Princeton — to help us, which I think it has.”

In game one on Friday afternoon, Santa Clara opened up the scoring in the first minutes of the second half when Bronco Leslie Osborne converted on a penalty kick in the 49th minute of play. Yale captain and goalkeeper Sarah Walker ’05 guessed right on the penalty kick, but Osborne shot low and left for the goal.

The Santa Clara score marked the end of a streak in which the Elis had held their opponents scoreless for nearly 500 minutes spanning more than 10 halves of competition. Santa Clara forward Bree Horvath finished the day’s scoring less than 10 minutes later with an easy goal from the right side after Walker was pulled to the left by the offense.

The Bulldogs and the Broncos were evenly matched through the first half of competition, with each team taking three shots on goal. But the Elis were held shotless in the second half while Santa Clara scored twice on four shots.

Despite the loss, Walker said the team competed hard and played at the same level it has all season.

“I think we played really well,” Walker said. “We definitely kept at the level we’ve been playing at the last few weeks, and we were able to compete.”

In game two on Sunday against Stanford, the Elis and the Cardinal battled back and forth for 76 scoreless minutes until Stanford scored the day’s lone goal. The Yale defense was unable to clear the ball when Stanford took control in the Bulldog half and West fired a shot into the upper corner over a diving Walker.

“It was a defensive struggle,” Meredith said. “Our girls battled really hard, but we just weren’t fortunate enough to get a goal. Sarah [Walker] played really well. There was nothing she could do on the goal.”

Walker made five saves, while Cardinal goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart had just one save on the Eli’s only shot of the game.

“This was a very good win against a very well-organized Yale team,” Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “We showed great patience and perseverance and we ended up with a great goal. We’re really pleased with the result because Yale is a great team.”

Despite the final score, Meredith said his team felt it could have won on Sunday.

“It was 0-0 for 76 minutes against Stanford,” Meredith said. “I thought we were just as good as they were. We could have earned a tie in that game. They scored on a mistake from us. We made a mistake at the end, I think, just from being tired. I don’t think my kids feel like Stanford deserved the game more than we did.”

While Walker said anytime a team travels to a different time zone, fatigue and jet lag will play a factor, forward Mimi Macauley ’07 refused to blame exhaustion for the outcome.

“We prepared,” Macauley said. “I’m not going to blame [the outcome] on being tired. We played a great game, they played a great game, and they came out with the win.”

Macauley said she believes the team has gained from its West Coast trip.

“I think we worked really hard,” Macauley said. “We didn’t come away with wins, but we definitely competed. This is definitely a step in the right direction for our program.”

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