While the women’s soccer team feels confident going for their 12th straight win Saturday against UPenn, they have had their fair share of bad luck in Philadelphia in the past. Yale head coach Rudy Meredith recalled that navigating the City of Brotherly Love has sometimes given the Elis trouble, usually before they reach the stadium.
“They’re tough to play at home, and you never know what to expect,” Meredith said. “I remember a few years ago, we couldn’t get into the locker room. And another time, our bus got lost on the way to the field, dropped us off and we ended up walking on some train tracks. Safe to say we were a little bit late.”
The No. 22 Elis (11-2, 3-0 Ivy) hope for better directions and another win to add to their perfect Ivy record when they head to the Keystone State tomorrow night to take on the Quakers (7-4-2, 1-2-1) under the lights by the Schuylkill. With their program-best 11-game win streak now stretching from the earliest reaches of Shopping Period through midterms, the Bulldogs, after a wet 3-0 homestand, will have to hit the road in search of number 12.
Midfielder Mimi Macauley ’07 said she has mixed feelings about playing her first October game away from torn-up Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium, where the team has booted 12 goals in their last three games.
“We’ll really miss the home fans,” Macauley said. “But on the other hand, our field has been very damaged, and it will be nice to play on another stadium that wasn’t hit as hard.”
The Quakers’ Rhodes Field was the site of the longest home winning streak in the Ancient Eight, though the twelve straight wins over the past two seasons have not been paralleled by anything nearly as successful on the road. Penn has not only lost every away game, they have yet to score a single goal outside their city limits this year.
An increasingly dangerous Dartmouth squad finally subdued the Red and Blue at home last weekend, eking past UPenn by a tight 1-0 tally. Yet despite gross inconsistencies in their opponent’s play this season, Meredith still sees any trip down I-95 as a formidable challenge to the Elis’ fragile position atop the league.
“No matter what, it’s always really difficult traveling,” he said. “We’ve never played under the lights at UPenn, and [nighttime play is] one of the many unknowns when playing on the road.”
As always, the Quakers will bring a solid defensive crew, though the team has weakened a few notches on offense since falling to Yale, 3-2, in overtime last October. Leading scorer and Academic All-American Katy Cross, who scored the late goal that sent last year’s matchup into an extra frame, graduated last May. Still, Macauley, who provided the heroics last fall at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium with the game-winner 11 minutes past regulation, expects another tight battle.
“We’re definitely preparing for a harder game than we have had in the last bunch of matches,” she said. “Hopefully we won’t need overtime this time.”
Coming into this weekend, the Bulldogs are tops in the Ancient Eight standings with nine points, three ahead of second-place pair Dartmouth and Columbia. With three weeks left to go in Ivy League play, championship scenarios are at the forefront of every player’s mind. Rather than avoiding the subject for fear of jinxing the team, the team openly talks about a ring and Meredith has ingrained the simple playoff formula into everyone’s heads.
“Rudy just emphasizes the fact that we need to win the next three games in order to control our destiny,” said forward Emma Whitfield ’09, who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Monday. “Each of the next three will be hard matches, and each is equally as important.”
The three games at hand against UPenn, Columbia and Dartmouth are the last three roadblocks between the Bulldogs and their first outright league title in 13 seasons. A year’s worth of work has boiled down to the next 12 days, and a triumph tomorrow night puts Yale a third of the way to the ultimate goal.