The Ivy title dreams of women’s soccer grew fainter Friday night as No. 23 Yale (5-3-0, 0-1-0 Ivy) fell to No. 17 Princeton (6-1-0, 1-0-0) 3-0 at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
The Bulldogs and the Tigers entered Friday’s game as the only two nationally-ranked teams in the Ivy League, leading Yale head coach Rudy Meredith to conjecture that this game would determine the winner of the Ivy title. But Meredith’s squad came up on the short end of that prediction.
“Princeton’s just a great team,” Eli forward Mimi Macauley ’07 said. “We played really hard, and they won.”
The Elis played the Tigers tough for the first 45 minutes of competition, holding Princeton scoreless despite being outshot 7-2. But the Tigers made offensive adjustments in the second half, moving a third player up front to create more chances around the Bulldogs’ goal.
“I told them to take some chances,” Tiger head coach Julia Schackford said. “I thought we were too tentative in the first half. I thought based on [the Elis’] formation that we could come at them with more numbers and put pressure on their backs.”
The offensive change proved effective from the first minute of the second half as the Tigers put five shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of the half, including a goal disallowed by an offsides call and another shot knocked away at the endline by Eli defender Lindsey Weening ’06.
But the Bulldogs could not hold back the Tiger onslaught and Princeton’s half-time adjustment paid dividends in the 55th minute when Tiger defender Brea Griffiths headed in a cross from mid-fielder Emily Behncke.
Princeton struck again just six minutes later when forward Maura Gallagher converted on a breakaway.
“[The Tigers] came out in the second half with a different strategy — they attacked more and we didn’t know how to respond right away,” Macauley said.
Princeton forward Esmeralda Negron finished the Tiger scoring in the 84th minute off an assist from Catherine Byrd.
The goal was almost Negron’s second for the game. Midway through the first half, Eli captain and goalkeeper Sarah Walker ’05 tipped a Negron shot over the crossbar to keep the contest scoreless.
Walker was in goal for all 90 minutes of play and had four saves on the night.
Meredith predicted correctly prior to the game that the team that scored first would come away with the victory. The Elis are left to wonder what could have been, especially after mid-fielder Laurel Karnes ’06 fired a shot just wide of the net toward the end of the first half.
Huang said the Elis staggered after Princeton’s first score.
“I think everyone felt we could have done more,” defender Christina Huang ’07 said. “We got a goal down and we kind of stepped back on defense. That’s kind of been a pattern with us. We’ll have to work on it this week in practice.”
The Tigers outshot the Bulldogs 12-3 in the second half alone and 19-5 in the game. Coming into Friday’s game, Yale led all Ivy teams in shots on goal (100), goals (12), and total points (31). But the Bulldogs could not muster any offense on this night. Weening said it was the Elis’ inability to finish that cost them on Friday.
“We had a couple chances we could have put away,” Weening said. “If we’d scored earlier in the game, or scored at all, it might have been different. They were so good at finishing. It’s hard, one momentary lapse in concentration and they can capitalize on it.”
While Weening and Macauley said the team played hard from the first minute to the last, Huang said the team lost its steam in the second half.
“We tend to lose stamina in the second half,” Huang said. “We played fine in the first half [but] we weren’t playing as calmly as we usually do. We probably should have adjusted to have more offense.”
Huang said Princeton was good at alleviating the Eli pressure by expanding out on the field and that the Bulldogs would need to work on clearing the ball by passing it to the outside and up the field.
After starting the season outscoring their opponents 12 to 1 in the first five games, the Elis have been held to just a single goal in their last three losses.
To rectify this scoring drought, Meredith plans to make adjustments this week in practice. While Meredith said he believes his defense matched up well against Princeton, the Bulldog’s inability to put pressure on the Princeton backfield gave the Tigers too many scoring opportunities.
“I think we were somewhat equal with [Princeton] defensively,” Meredith said. “But they were better than us offensively. We have sacrificed so much offensively in our formation that we’ve given up something defensively. They just wore us down defensively — they just kept coming and coming.”
Meredith said he will try to reignite the Eli attack by moving more players to midfield and forward.
Despite the recent spurt of disappointing losses, the Bulldogs remain upbeat.
“I think, to put a positive spin on it, with each of these losses we’ve played against very good teams,” Huang said. “It shows you the faults in your own team.”
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