The women’s soccer team will face a grueling test of endurance this weekend as they hit the road for two games in two days.
The Bulldogs (7-4-0, 1-2-0 Ivy) travel first to Ithaca, N.Y. Saturday for Ivy League action against Cornell (4-5-2, 1-2-0). The Elis then head to Hamilton, N.Y. to take on the Colgate Raiders (9-4-0) Sunday. On the heels of last weekend’s crucial 1-0 victory over Dartmouth in Hanover, R.I., the squad looks to break away from a pack of Ivy teams with 1-2 league records, including Cornell, Dartmouth (5-5-2) and Brown (4-7-0).
Head coach Rudy Meredith said he believes his team is prepared for the long weekend, but he added that the Bulldogs will need help from their bench if they are to win both contests.
“We’ve been making sure we are rested,” he said. “It’s been a tight balance to work hard but at the same time make sure we have the energy for the long weekend. The kids understand it’s going to be a total team effort. With two games in two days, we’re going to need contributors off the bench.”
Meredith pointed to last weekend’s victory over Dartmouth as an example of the style of play the Elis need to bring into the weekend. In that victory, the Bulldogs defeated Dartmouth for the first time since 1995. Midfielder Jessica Berggren ’06 came off the bench to score her second career goal in the 55th minute of play.
“We definitely got a confidence boost from the Dartmouth game,” Meredith said. “To get that kind of monkey off our back, and the way we won.”
In the Big Red, the Elis face an Ivy opponent that has struggled to make it out of the bottom four of the Ancient Eight in recent years. In last season’s match-up, Yale came back from a one-goal deficit to win 2-1 in double-overtime on a goal from midfielder Laurel Karnes ’06.
Cornell head coach Berhane Andeberhan said that while his team is still rebuilding, he expects a hard-fought game Saturday.
“The last few years we’ve competed well, but Yale has had an edge on us,” he said. “We are a rebuilding program. We’ve been working on improving our attack. We’ve been playing well but not scoring a lot of goals. How that will work against Yale, we’ll see on Saturday.”
The Elis were also victorious over Colgate in last season’s contest when Karnes broke a 2-2 tie with the game-winning goal in the 78th minute of play for a 3-2 victory. Meredith said he expects another high-scoring contest.
“It’s usually a wide open game [against Colgate],” Meredith said. “Both teams, both offenses, are lead by attacking-minded coaches. Colgate is the top team in the Patriot League. This is a big game for us — [Colgate] is probably going to end up in the NCAA Tournament.”
Midfielder Mia Arakaki ’05 said the team worked hard in practices leading up to the Dartmouth game last weekend, and from that victory the Elis believe in the value of their work ethic.
“I think that up to that past win we had at Dartmouth, we’d been working really hard in practice — the win proved that our hard work paid off,” Arakaki said. “So we went into this week knowing that hard work pays off. If we all work together, we’re going to be OK.”
Arakaki said she expects further contributions off the bench. She added that it is important for the Elis to keep their intensity toward the end of the game, saying the team has at times lacked the sense of urgency to score goals.
“A big thing for us has been urgency,” she said. “We haven’t been playing with a lot of urgency in the final third of the game. It’s not something you coach, it’s something you resolve as a team collectively. It comes from all over the field, but, generally speaking, the final third is where we haven’t had that extra push to get the ball into the back of the net.”
The Elis have struggled to score at times, including a stretch of four straight losses in which they failed to score a single goal. Yet they have been particularly stingy on defense, allowing just eight goals in 11 games behind the solid defense of goalie and captain Sarah Walker ’05.
Walker was named Ivy Player of the Week for her performance against Dartmouth, her fourth shutout of the season, in which she made two diving stops in the last 20 minutes of play to preserve the 1-0 victory. Arakaki said Walker’s impressive play inspires the Eli frontline to score goals.
“I’ve played with her since before high school,” Arakaki said. “I think everyone knows by now that she is amazing and she’s kept us in all of our games this year. I think the fact that she’s been so dominant in goal has translated into us wanting to score for the team and for the great job she has done for us.”