Going into tomorrow’s game against Hartford, the women’s soccer team will have Mary Kuder ’08 on its side.

Kuder, a midfielder who began her collegiate career at the University of Portland, transferred to Yale this year and has made an immediate impact on the team. Playing at Portland gave the Seattle native a distinct familiarity with playing with and against some of the most talented players in the country. The Pilots, who are currently ranked fifth in the nation, are perennially one of the nation’s top soccer programs. In 2002, they won the NCAA championship.

“The experience Mary brings to the team is probably her most valuable asset,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “She comes with a year of Division I soccer under her belt and has played with some very high level players. This was very apparent against North Carolina. Mary showed she’s not intimidated by anyone.”

Kuder came off the bench to play 80 minutes against the Tar Heels last Sunday at the Carolina Soccer Classic. She started in the season opener last Friday against Duke and in the Elis’ game against St. John’s on Wednesday.

Kuder decided to come to Yale at the end of last year, after seeing limited playing time at Portland and having a falling out with her coach. She started looking at other schools and said that Meredith showed a lot of enthusiasm at the prospect of her joining the team. Since arriving at Yale, the center midfielder has provided the team with solid play at a position that desperately needed to be filled.

“It worked out great for all parties involved,” Meredith said. “Mary wanted to go to a great academic and soccer school and we needed someone with her talent and her experience at the position. She adds another weapon to the already solid team.”

Soccer aside, Kuder said she is enjoying life in the Elm City.

“I absolutely love Yale. It’s great,” she said. “It’s hard but really fun.”

Her motivation and excitement for the game of soccer and the upcoming season are contagious, allowing her to make a smooth transition from her previous school. She said that this is one of the closest teams she has ever been around, making the experience all the more enjoyable.

“She’s really adjusted well,” captain Eleni Benson ’06 said. “She’s very happy to be here and we’re happy to have her.”

Meredith said the team’s enthusiasm and confidence is growing with every game.

“We have a lot of potential this year,” he said. “I think the main thing is just to stay healthy and keep working hard. We have a solid team that’s getting better everyday.”

Although the team is currently 1-2, both losses have been extremely close and against very good competition. The Bulldogs fell to No. 2 North Carolina and No. 9 Duke by scores of 1-0.

“It feels like we’re 3-0, instead of 1-2,” Benson said. “The way we’ve played has shown a lot of character. We’ve proved that we can hang with the best teams in the country.”

The team has a full weekend of soccer ahead of it, playing Hartford tonight at home, followed by a game at Central Connecticut on Sunday.

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