Water levels are rising out of control, flood warnings top the nightly news, and the women’s soccer team, condemned to the bowels of Payne Whitney, hasn’t taken a shot on goal in over a week.
“I don’t care if it looks like the rainforest, we’re practicing outside [Friday],” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We haven’t done any shooting all week because we’ve been stuck inside.”
The Elis (9-2, 2-0 Ivy) will have just a few short hours to regain their sharpness around the opposing net before a slipping Cornell (6-4, 1-2) squad departs the Empire State for the Elm City. Due to the Elis’ weather cancellation last weekend, the Big Red have played twice since Yale’s last contest 13 days ago. But that hardly implies that the visitors come in with the momentum — Cornell has dropped its last four straight by the combined score of 11-3.
Lost in the haze and spray of two weeks of inclement weather is that the Bulldogs still are riding a program-record nine-game win streak and have only tightened their hold on the Ancient Eight top spot in their inactivity.
Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium has been underwater to some degree for most of October, and last Saturday’s game against Dartmouth was postponed at the last minute as a result. Despite the obvious possibility that they may have suffered a wet and muddy momentum-killer, the Elis maintain that the inactivity has only made them hungrier for battle.
“Things were getting rough, and this break has plenty more positives than negatives, especially at this particular time” defenseman Christina Huang ’07 said. “I think we’re set to go and really eager to play.”
Perhaps the biggest positive of the break is that the Elis were able to use the time to get healthy.
“We needed some time to get healed,” Meredith said. “April [Siuda ’06] is back after breaking her arm in North Carolina, [captain] Eleni [Benson ’06] got her stitches out, and would’ve had to play against Dartmouth with 10 stitches in her foot. Hayley [Zevenbergen ’09] would have played, but was still nursing an injury. The rain could’ve been a blessing in disguise, and I think we’re mature enough to handle this.”
Cornell, like Yale, is no stranger to streaks, and has played their first 10 games to mixed results. The Ithacans bulldozed through their first six games, including a 1-0 squeaker over in-state rival Columbia, to blast out to their best start since 1986.
But since their Sept. 23 triumph over the Lions, the Big Red has been on the losing side of every tally. The most recent low point was a 3-0 blowout at the hands of Harvard on their home Berman Field.
But although tomorrow’s visitors were manhandled by a Crimson squad that the Bulldogs had erased a week before, Meredith still sees potential for the road team to play spoiler to the Elis’ magic season.
“With the break, we might be a little shaky coming out of the gate,” he said. “All the time, no matter what the situation, they can always pull out a win. If we don’t play well, we can definitely get upset.”
In the meantime, last Saturday’s game against Dartmouth has been rescheduled for Nov. 2 at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. While the team was disappointed to have the game bumped back nearly a month, Benson said the rain might have played to Yale’s disadvantage.
“Our style works better on dry ground,” she said. “Lots of one touch passing, lots of ball-handling skill, and it’s hard to do that with the field all wet and torn up. The less skilled, more athletic teams tend to dominate in those situations.”
Despite the first whistle being pushed forward from noon to 6 p.m. to give the field time to dry, the forecast still calls for showers on Saturday. Huang said if the conditions hold, the Elis will have to pass less and clear the ball more.
While Dartmouth seems to be one of the premier teams in the league this year, the hierarchy in the Ancient Eight is muddled. The same Columbia Lions that ceded Cornell their only league win now match the Big Green as the only other team with a sole Ivy loss, and they both sit in a delicate second-place tie behind the undefeated Elis. Meredith said the picture will become clearer after the games this weekend, most notably Columbia at Princeton and Dartmouth at Penn.
Whatever happens outside the confines of New Haven, the coaching staff has echoed two themes as they prepare for Cornell, one familiar and one not so familiar.
“We told them that this game is not just about being satisfied about playing well, but getting better,” Meredith said. “With soccer stuff, with fitness stuff, the goal is about being better than we were in the beginning.”
Yet, with less than a month before the league season wraps up, the denizens of the locker room of the Ivy League’s newest powerhouse recall that they are in uncharted territory.
“We remind ourselves that we control our own destiny,” Benson said. “This is not a condition we’re used to being in. Usually we have to rely on other schools — hope that one school beats another, this school loses to that one. From here on out, we are in control.