Although the men’s soccer team will still earn a point in the standings for its effort this past weekend, the Bulldogs cannot help but feel that they just let a big opportunity slip through their hands.
The No. 25 Bulldogs (6-2-4, 2-1-1 Ivy) fought back from a 1-0 deficit on the road to tie Penn (8-3-1, 2-1-1) in double overtime. But it was their inability to make the most of numerous scoring chances that has left a sour taste in the Elis’ mouths.
“We know we were the better team [Saturday] night,” forward Josh Block ’07 said. “Of course a tie is better than a loss, but when you know you could’ve won there is a feeling of disappointment. The game was there for the taking and we couldn’t grab it.”
After both offenses could not break through in the first half, the Quakers took charge in the 56th minute. Alex Grendi sailed a perfect free kick over the outstretched hands of Eli keeper Erik Geiger ’08 — who played well and finished with six big saves — to give Penn a 1-0 lead. Just 10 minutes after the Grendi goal, midfielder Tyler Guse ’09 stole the ball from a Penn defender and drilled a long shot past Penn goalie Daniel Cepero.
The Guse equalizer seemed to re-energize Yale. The Elis were relentless in their offensive attack, creating numerous scoring chances. Most notable was the active play of forward Gage Hills ’07, who Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said had his best game of the year. Hills constantly put pressure on the Penn defense and set up several scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were unable to finish those chances, and left the field at the end of the overtime periods with a tie and sense of dissatisfaction.
“The momentum was definitely with us [when we tied the game] and that’s when you have to find that second goal and put the game away,” Tompkins said. “For sure I thought we were the more dangerous team of the two, but Penn withstood it … and we were unable to convert.”
This is not to say the Bulldogs cannot take anything from their performance on Saturday. For a team that has had its fair share of struggles keeping leads in the second half, it seemed that the Bulldogs — playing their first Ivy away game of the season — might not have had enough to come from behind against a league contender on the road. But the young Elis showed maturity and resiliency in the face of hostile surroundings, stuck to their game plan, and mounted a comeback.
Block said he was impressed with the way the freshmen handled themselves in their first-ever Ivy road game.
“I’m really proud of our freshmen in their first away Ivy,” Block said. “They really battled hard, and even though they’re just freshmen they showed that they know what the Ivies are all about.”
Tompkins said the game illustrated the Bulldogs’ continual growth throughout the year.
“What we are seeing on a weekly basis is a continuation of the maturation process of the group players as a whole,” he said. “The whole team is becoming more tactfully savvy. Even though we were down a goal we were confident we could get the game back.”
In the end, the Bulldogs, who came into the game in a four-way tie for second place in the league, know that they missed out on a chance to separate themselves from that pack. More importantly, with their tie and a Brown win over Cornell, the Elis are now five points behind the first-place Bears.
“It would’ve been great if we got the win because realistically we probably were going to have to win out to win the Ivy [League],” midfielder James Stewart ’07 said. “I think we’re trying not to get too caught up in what needs to happen in other games to get the ring. We’re starting to realize that every game [we don’t win] can knock us out.”
Yale looks to rebound at home on Wednesday against Hartford before continuing their Ivy road trip on Saturday at Columbia.