This weekend, the Yale women’s soccer team accomplished something it had not done since 1994.
In defeating Dartmouth 1-0 Sunday afternoon in Hanover, N.H. the Bulldogs not only won their first Ivy League game of the season but also gave head coach Rudy Meredith his first triumph over the Big Green in a decade.
“This is huge — we hadn’t beaten them in ten years,” Meredith said. “It feels like I finally got a monkey off my back.”
Prior to Sunday’s action, several Eli players said the game was a must-win if the team was to keep any hope of an Ivy title or an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Bulldogs (7-4-0, 1-2-0 Ivy) entered the contest without a win in the Ancient Eight after dropping their first two league games to Princeton (9-1-0, 3-0-0 Ivy) and Harvard (4-4-2, 3-0-0 Ivy).
Against the Big Green (4-5-2, 1-2-0 Ivy), the Elis had an opportunity to beat not only a league rival, but also a higher-ranked Northeast Regional opponent. If Yale is unable to make it to the NCAA Tournament through the Ivy Championship, the team must finish at or near the top of their Region to secure a bid.
“It was our season [on the line],” forward Mimi Macauley ’07 said. “We had to win this game if we wanted a chance at [making the NCAA Tournament].”
On a wet Chase Field, the Big Green and the Bulldogs played even for the first 45 minutes, with Yale taking seven shots on goal to Dartmouth’s five and neither team recording a score.
The lone goal of the game came in the 55th minute of play when midfielder Jessica Berggren ’06, coming off the bench, scored from point-blank range.
The goal was set up by midfielder Lindsay Weening ’06 when she drove a corner kick into a scramble in front of the Dartmouth goal. Macauley came up with the ball at the near post and assisted on the goal with a pass to Berggren.
After Berggren’s goal, Dartmouth moved a third player up front to put more offensive pressure on the Elis. In the final 20 minutes of the game, the Big Green repeatedly tested the Yale defense and goalkeeper Sarah Walker ’05.
Walker made a diving save to the left side with 18 minutes left and another stop three minutes later. In the last half-minute, there was a skirmish in front of the Yale goal, but the Elis managed to clear the ball.
Meredith said that, unlike in years past, his squad outworked Dartmouth at both ends of the field. He pointed to Berggren’s goal as evidence of Yale’s large number of contributors.
“We fought to the very end, to the last second of the game. It was a total team effort,” Meredith said. “When you have someone come off the bench and score, you’re talking about a total team effort.
Berggren gave credit to the defense while saying the team needs to carry over their intensity into practice this week.
“We were able to get more [offense] than we had recently,” she said. “Obviously our defense was amazing. I think the most important thing is we hustled a lot. It’s important that we keep working as hard as we can in practice.”
By game’s end, the Elis had outshot Dartmouth by just two, 13-11. But Yale had nine corner kicks to Dartmouth’s one, with Berggren’s tally coming off one such corner.
In goal, Walker racked up her fourth shutout of the season while making six saves. It was the sixth time this season Yale has held an opponent scoreless.
Walker said she was just trying to do her part.
“My team in front of me was working so hard,” she said. “I wanted to do what I could to hold up my end of the bargain. It was a little intense at times.”
Macauley did not hesitate to say that Walker was the player of the game.
“The field was very wet — any one mistake could lead to a goal-scoring opportunity,” Macauley said. “Both sides had chances and the transitions were so quick. It was definitely scary, but [Walker] played absolutely unbelievable — team MVP.”
Meredith observed that because of the team’s early-season success, his squad has confidence and ability like no other team he has coached in recent years.
The Bulldogs began the season with five straight wins, the best start in program history, including an upset of last season’s NCAA finalist, UConn.
“I think our team makeup is a little bit different than in the past,” Meredith said. “We all realize what we are capable of. We all know we can play at that level we did against UConn. We know we have it in us, we just need to bring it every day.”