The men’s soccer team showed split personalities this weekend at the Dartmouth Classic. While the Bulldogs finessed and outclassed the competition in one game, they displayed their defensive grit and gut the next.
Yale dominated Rhode Island 6-2 on Friday and edged out Drake 1-0 on Sunday to win the Classic in Hanover, N.H.
“We definitely had a good showing on Friday,” captain Shannon Brooks ’06 said. “It was just a really strong performance. [Sunday] was a little tougher. We didn’t play as good as we did Friday but the guys stuck it out.”
After four consecutive overtime games to begin the season, the Bulldogs finally enjoyed a smooth win that was never really in doubt. Defender Jake Miller ’07 — who was later named Tournament Defensive co-MVP — started the offensive fireworks with a header 15 minutes into the game. The Elis never looked back. Four minutes after forward Alex Munns ’07 made it a 2-0 game in the 25th minute, Steve Mellen of Rhode Island cut the lead in half. But Miller’s second goal of the game two minutes later sealed the deal.
Although the Bulldogs have been plagued by rough second halves all year, the Elis were unrelenting on Friday. Munns added his second goal of the day midway through the second half. Jon Carlos ’09 and Josh Block ’07 both tallied late in the game to close out the scoring.
Head coach Brian Tompkins said the key to the explosion was the team’s ability to capitalize on scoring chances.
“Our execution was really good,” Tompkins said. “We scored a variety of different types of goals and took advantage of the chances that came our way, and it’s not always easy to do that.”
The offense sputtered on Sunday against Drake, but a strong defense and a fortuitous bounce kept Yale’s win streak alive.
The two back lines dominated the game, as the game remained scoreless deep into the second half. But with just four minutes remaining, Yale finally broke through with a well-executed offensive set with some luck sprinkled in. Munns — later named Tournament Offensive MVP — got past the Drake defense, handled a pass from defender John Skaleki ’06, and sent a cross that went over the goalie and ricocheted off a Drake defender into the net.
To the Elis’ credit, two apparent scores were questionably called back. It looked like Brooks put Yale on the board in the 58th minute, but a foul was called on the Drake goaltender right before the score. And with one minute remaining, a late offsides call negated what would have been a Munns goal.
But the story of the game was the composure the Bulldog defense showed. Late game mistakes and mental lapses have hurt Yale all season, but yesterday the Elis never let up one bit. Bulldog goalie Erik Geiger ’08 was outstanding in net, finishing with five saves and notched his first career shutout.
“One of our team goals is to have more shutouts,” defender Jordan Rieger ’07 said. “We’ve let in a goal every game. Before the game, coach told us just to focus on each individual half, get to the halftime without letting a goal, and then finish the job in the second half. It was more than just back four, it was our whole team mentality.”
Tompkins was pleased with his team’s perseverance.
“There was a lot of ebb and flow in this game,” Tompkins said. “We felt a little unfortunate that those [two goals] were called back. But we persisted and that’s the beauty of this game. In the close game you just need to find a way to get it done. A goal is a goal is a goal.”
The fast start is all the more special considering what the Bulldogs went through at the beginning of last season. Yale opened the 2004 campaign with six straight losses. Rieger explained how last year’s growing pains have provided the extra spark this season.
“It’s much different on the bus ride home after games this year,” Rieger said jokingly. “We have a lot of players who went through those bad times. Now we’re more experienced and know how to handle tough situations and battle it out. Players don’t want to feel that again.”
The undefeated Bulldogs will ride a wave of optimism into their Wednesday night showdown against No. 10 Fairleigh Dickinson.
“The spirit is very good right now. There is a collective confidence,” Tompkins said. “We will go into Wednesday’s game with the appropriate level of optimism and confidence. We’re happy right now … and are looking forward to the next challenge.”
NOTES — Dartmouth beat Drake and Rhode Island to finish the tournament, 2-0. Yale, which had the same record, won the Classic by point differential. The Big Green’s Lucas Richardson shared Tournament Defensive co-MVP honors with Miller.