What a difference a simple change in scenery can make in the world of Yale women’s soccer. Just days after fierce uphill battles against Duke and North Carolina under the glare of the national spotlight, the Elis stuck closer to home this weekend and notched a nifty pair of wins from two fellow Nutmeg State squads.

The Bulldogs (3-2) did not stray far from Yale’s Soccer-Lacrosse stadium this weekend, first eking past Hartford at the home opener Friday night with a 1-0 victory, then heading a few exits up I-91 yesterday afternoon to take down Central Connecticut State 2-0 at New Britain.

In both affairs, the players who took center stage on offense were just a year ago suiting up as seniors on their high school teams. Freshman Emma Whitfield ’09, just a few months removed from Burlington-Edison High School in Washington State, made her New Haven debut by booting her first goal in a Yale uniform a few minutes into the second half Friday night. Crysti Howser ’09 followed suit Sunday, wasting little time to score in the first half then adding some insurance of her own midway through the second.

It would be a stretch to say that Friday night’s win was a breeze, as the Bulldogs put the pressure on the Hawks throughout the first half, but, as in all of their first four games, could never quite deliver for the first-half score. The play centered on Hartford’s side of midfield for virtually all of the first 45 minutes, as the Elis put 11 shots on goal, but a combination of unlucky misses and impressive plays by Hawks goalkeeper Stephanie Doyle kept the game scoreless at halftime.

Whitfield said the team’s mood at halftime was one of frustration.

“We were a little mad at halftime,” she said. “We were playing too independently in the first half. We realized this, [and] got back on the field happier and looser.”

The change in attitude worked wonders for the Elis, who were playing in front of a particularly raucous home crowd for the first time this year. Just under three minutes into the second, Whitfield took a pass from the corner from Laurel Karnes ’06 and deposited the ball past Doyle for the 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs held on for the rest of the second to clinch the decision, the team’s fourth consecutive affair with a 1-0 final score.

Coach Rudy Meredith was excited about the win, especially in light of Yale’s dense schedule in the first week of the season.

“It’s still a little tough for us, with a lot of games not very spaced out,” he said. “We’re still finding our legs, and we still can’t do everything that we’d like to do in practices.

Meredith was very proud but not surprised about Whitfield’s performance.

“She’s gonna score a lot of goals for us,” he said.

The Bulldogs did not stay home for long, but still delivered their most solid, confident effort of the young season on unfamiliar turf at Central Connecticut yesterday afternoon. The Elis went to New Britain prepared for a challenge, especially after the Blue Devils tamed Harvard 1-0 Friday night.

“Friday night, with a larger crowd anyone had seen before, everyone was a little nervous,” defenseman Christina Huang ’07 said. “What happened was we played selfishly — dribbled, dribbled, dribbled — and made too many short passes. Today we fixed the problem — moved people around — and overall played a great game.”

The team gelled quickly and scored in the first half for the first time this season. Howser dazzled, scoring both goals to round out a veritable “Weekend of the Freshmen” on offense. Most agreed that Sunday’s match marked the most cohesive effort of the season.

“We scored a goal in the first half; we haven’t done that yet,” Huang said. “We came pretty prepared knowing we needed more than one goal to win. We also had really strong defense — not too many mistakes.”

The Bulldogs bring their streak of 280 straight shutout minutes, dating back to last Sunday’s match against North Carolina, back home to face Quinnipiac Tuesday night at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.

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