Some players were worried that the women’s soccer team might come out of the gate a little rusty after their rain-induced two-week layoff. Ninety minutes, 17 shots and five goals later, any lingering rust-related concerns seemed ridiculous.
Under the lights of Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium, the No. 21 Bulldogs (10-2, 3-0 Ivy) struck early and often in Saturday’s affair against a fading Cornell (6-5, 1-3) squad, blanking the Big Red 5-0. Yale secured the momentum early on, allowing head coach Rudy Meredith to clear the bench. A season-high 27 players were used to notch consecutive win number 10.
“Cornell came out and played on this field exactly as we expected,” Meredith said.
Fans trickling into the stands a few minutes late into the unexpectedly dry Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium met a crooked number on the scoreboard. By the 15-minute mark, the Bulldogs had matched their season high total for first-half goals with a 2-0 tally.
Forward Emma Whitfield ’09 delivered the first of a series perfectly placed shots on goal at 4:10, redirecting a Christina Huang ’07 pass under Cornell goalkeeper Taylor Hendren for the inaugural score of the game. By the time midfielder Laurel Karnes ’06 channeled a Jamie Ortega ’06 cross past Hendren less than ten minutes later, the Bulldogs could easily be mistaken for a team that had taken shooting practice every day last week. The weather that kept the Elis from playing Dartmouth Oct. 8 — a game now rescheduled for Nov. 2 — also relegated the squad to Payne Whitney for almost all of the week’s practices.
“I think it was the fact that we hadn’t practiced outside in so long that made our shooting game even better,” Whitfield said. “We talked a little about it before the game, but weren’t that concerned. Being confined indoors made us all the more excited to shoot.”
Whitfield earned her second two-goal performance of the season — a feat only matched by fellow freshman Crysti Howser ’09 — when she scored off an Eleni Benson ’06 cross at 26:03, finding the top-left corner of the Cornell net.
Just a few minutes after the impeccably-placed Whitfield boot, Meredith employed a rare strategy. Almost every starter was pulled at the same whistle to raucous applause, and the reserves held the 3-0 lead through halftime.
Meredith said his starters could use as much rest as possible before tomorrow night’s game against Sacred Heart.
“With a game on Tuesday, we feel like we’re good enough that we can play all our players and still do well,” Meredith said.
Meredith’s choice to remove the starters, which he would repeat midway through the second half, was hardly a signal that he was satisfied with the offensive output. Whitfield said despite the three-goal lead at halftime, Meredith told the team he wanted a few more goals in the opening minutes of the second frame.
“You don’t want to give them any more chances,” Meredith said. “You have to be the one to score the next goal. The difference between 3-1 and 4-0 is a huge one.”
After about 40 minutes of being tied with Whitfield for the team lead in goals, Howser pulled back ahead, scoring her sixth goal of the season off a Mary Kuder ’08 pass. The reserves kept the pressure on, and forward Alicia Fujii ’08 came off the bench to deposit her first goal of the season from point blank range six minutes later.
Kuder and Anderson, both playing their first seasons in Yale uniforms, got the first points of their career on their assists.
By the end of the second half, the soggy field was in noticeably worse condition, and players had difficulty keeping balance when challenging for the ball. Fujii took a noticeably bad spill a few minutes after scoring her goal.
“It remained a physical game, and it was so slippery that anyone who went all out was going to go down,” she said.
The 5-0 victory made a loud statement for the Bulldogs. Not only did the team not suffer from two weeks without games, they played their strongest game of the season and blew out an Ivy opponent after eking by the first two.
The Bulldogs control their destiny at this point. Despite remaining games against Ivy second-place teams Columbia and Dartmouth, the formula for the Ancient Eight crown is quite simple.
“We have four games left, but so long as we win the next three against Penn, Columbia, and Dartmouth, it’s ours,” Meredith said. “We’re on a mission right now.”