Sometime back in early September, the women’s soccer team made a name for itself as a scrappy squad that eked out low-scoring game after low-scoring game. But after nabbing their 11th straight win last night and their 12th goal in three games, the team’s penchant for the nail-biter seems like ancient history.

The Elis (11-2, 3-0 Ivy) took a break from putting away victories against league opponents to defeat struggling Sacred Heart (5-8-1) last night at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium, burying the Pioneers 5-1. Just like in Saturday’s affair against Dartmouth, the home team piled on three goals early in the first half past the porous visiting back four and held the momentum to the final whistle.

In this late season schedule loaded with Ancient Eight opponents, an October match-up against the Pioneers seemed out of place. Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said it might be difficult to keep the focus in a game sandwiched between crucial matches against Cornell and Columbia.

“It’s hard not to overlook … the Ivies coming up,” Meredith said. “But we were able to stay focused, gain a little more confidence and help hold our place in the rankings.”

The Bulldogs, ranked 22nd in the current NSCAA rankings, managed to make each of their three first-half goals in a noteworthy way.

Midfielder Christina Huang ’07 broke the early deadlock just beyond the nine-minute mark when her shot deflected off a Sacred Heart defender and past goalie Katie Mulheran. Though Huang herself acknowledged that a Pioneer had been the last to touch the ball, the scorekeeper still credited her with her first goal of the season. Less than 10 minutes later, midfielder Mary Kuder ’08 followed suit when she redirected a shot by Crysti Howser ’09 between the goalposts at 18:48. Three days after earning her first point of the season with an assist Saturday night, Kuder, who transferred from the University of Portland this fall, had her first goal wearing Bulldog blue.

Perhaps the most exciting goal of the game came when the teams lined up for a penalty kick at 32:05. Laurel Karnes ’06 handily beat Mulheran to make the Bulldogs a perfect one-for-one on penalty kicks this season. Meredith said the type of offense his squad plays is not conducive to drawing penalty kicks.

“We’re a passing team,” he said. “Since we don’t dribble, we don’t get fouled in the box very much. That’s why it took so long to get our first chance this season.”

Huang said the team rarely works on penalty kicks in practice, but benefitted from some good timing.

“We have small [intra-squad] tournaments, and we had a PK shootout with the entire team last week,” she said. “But that was probably the only time we’ve practiced them this year.”

The Bulldogs had a wealth of scoring opportunities throughout the first part of the second frame, but lost chance after chance each time with a bevy of missed crosses and off-sides calls. Meredith attributed the 10 off-sides calls and sloppiness around the net to a new offensive strategy, where the Bulldogs played three up front instead of two.

Alicia Fujii ’08, riding high off her first goal of the season in Saturday’s game against Dartmouth, doubled her 2005 total with a chip shot over Mulheran, breaking the Elis’ second-half drought at 75:05. Yet unlike Saturday, the home team could not keep the visitors scoreless through the 90-minute mark. Sacred Heart freshman Megan Wosleger capitalized on one of the Pioneers’ few ventures into the Yale box, beating goalie Susie Starr ’08 with a boot to the right corner. Having held the shutout through 80 minutes, captain and defenseman Eleni Benson ’06 said she was disappointed with this brief lapse.

“It was very frustrating. I don’t think they had any good chances at all to score except for that,” she said. “We can’t afford to give goals like that up to better teams, so we definitely can’t give them up in a game like tonight’s.”

The Elis got the goal back quickly, when Fujii scored her third goal in two games with less than two minutes to play. The 5-1 victory marks the last time the team will get to play a game outside league play. Starting with Saturday night’s match with Penn, the Bulldogs, sitting alone at the summit of the Ivy League standings, have nothing but Ancient Eight teams left on the docket. Elis’ play has captured attention from outside the league and within — Emma Whitfield ’09 became the seventh Yalie in eight weeks to win Rookie of the Week honors.

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