The women’s soccer team already has an impressive nine victories this season, but none would be as important as one this Saturday against the University of Pennsylvania at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. A loss this weekend would seriously jeopardize the Bulldogs’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s pretty much our season,” Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We’re on track right now, if we win out, to have a good chance of making the tournament. If [the Quakers] win out, they’ll win the League and make the tournament, so it’s a big game for both teams — definitely the biggest game of the season.”
The Bulldogs (9-4-0, 2-2-0 Ivy), in the midst of a five-game winning streak, will run into a Quaker team on a tear of its own. Penn has won eight straight games, including four shut outs in the last five victories. But the Bulldogs know how to put an end to streaks after defeating a Colgate team last Sunday 2-1 that had won six in a row before playing Yale in New York.
The Elis won twice last weekend on the road, first over Cornell 2-0 and then against Colgate. In the process, Yale took sole possession of fourth place in the Ancient Eight. This Saturday, the Elis are looking to climb further in the Ivy standings, with Penn (7-4-2, 3-0-1 Ivy) in second just below Princeton (11-1-0, 4-0-0 Ivy), and the Crimson (6-4-2, 3-1-0 Ivy) in third place.
With Harvard at Princeton and Penn at Yale, by weekend’s end the Ivy League champion will practically be determined and each team will know how close it is to an NCAA Tournament bid. The winner of the Ivy League receives an automatic bid, with the other teams falling at the mercy of the tournament selection committee. According to Meredith, that means Yale needs to win the rest of their games, with no game more important than the one this weekend at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.
“If Penn wins the rest of their games, they will win the Ivy League,” midfielder Emily Haddad ’07 said. “But they haven’t played us and they haven’t played Princeton — those are two huge games. So it’s anyone’s game right now. I’m not sure if we can win the Ivy League, but if we want to give ourselves a chance we have to win the [remaining] four games.”
In last season’s match-up against the Quakers, the Bulldogs came out on top by a 1-0 score thanks to a first-half goal from forward Mimi Macauley ’07. If history is to repeat itself, the Elis will have to contain Penn’s offensive juggernaut, forward Katie Cross. Cross is tied for the third most goals scored in the Ivy League with five.
“Katie Cross [has been] one of the top goal-scorers [in the league] over the last four years,” Meredith said. “We need to stop her. [The Quakers] are an attacking-minded team. They play with three forwards, so we need to shut down their attack.”
Meredith said that while this year’s Penn team consists of mostly the same starters as the team the Bulldogs beat last season, the Quakers are a better squad this year.
“Their whole senior class has been contributing,” Meredith said. “Their experience is going to be hard to deal with. I think they have more depth than in the past and they are much more cohesive as a team than they have been in the past.”
But the Bulldog defense has been stingy this year with seven shutouts in nine victories. Yale is second in goals allowed per game (0.73), trailing only powerhouse Princeton (0.30). The Elis have depended upon their steady goalie Sarah Walker ’05 time-and-time again to preserve close games. Walker is ranked in the top three in the Ivy League in saves (50), shutouts (4) and goals against average (0.82).
Forward Vanessa Resnick ’05 said the Elis expect a tough contest on Saturday, but they are confident they will come out on top if they bring their best game to the field.
“Every year we play them it’s a really tough match,” Resnick said. “We’ve beaten Penn the last couple of years. As long as we come out there and play hard and we play well, there’s no reason we shouldn’t dominate Penn and there’s no reason we shouldn’t beat them.”
Resnick said the Elis will try to get on the board quickly.
“We basically have to score, and hopefully score early in the game,” Resnick said. “I think it’s important that we score early in the game, complete our passes and finish our opportunities.”