Yale may have dubbed tonight their semi-final, but for Columbia, this was the championship. The blank faces standing watch over a rush of powder blue jerseys at midfield spoke volumes about a team for which losing had become all but extinct. But desire to play the spoiler outweighed the drive for a title, and tonight, the mighty Bulldogs have fallen.

With Manhattan sparkling behind the south goalpoasts on a brisk evening, the

The Bulldogs (11-3-1, 3-1-1 Ivy) threw themselves into an uphill battle right off the bat en route to a 2-1 upset at Columbia (9-5-1, 3-2 Ivy). Lions forward Cathleen Cimino’s goal was anything but resounding boot at the 4:01 mark – Yale head coach Rudy Meredith called it an “early mistake” on his teams’ part. But the margin for error that the Elis had become so accustomed to with a wash of recent blowouts never materialized tonight, as the Lions grabbed the momentum and never let go.

Meredith said his team, which had been unbeaten in its last 12 games dating back

to the first week of September, could only offer praise for the feisty Lions effort.

“I felt that our intensity just wasn’t there,” he said. “We were outplayed,

out-hustled, out-coached, and they just wanted it a little bit more.”

The Bulldogs trailed going into the locker room at the half, despite holding an

eight to two advantage in shots. Playing from behind for only for the second time since their winning streak began, the Elis looked rejuvenated after halftime, and forward Maggie Westfal ’09 was able to even the score off a header from midfielder Crysti Howser ’09 only five minutes into the second frame.

With the momentum beginning to slide back towards the away team, Meredith said Columbia’s second goal was an even bigger shock. A Jana Whiting cross came “out

of heaven” to beat a retreating Susan Starr ’08 to give the Lions the lead with only 16 minutes left to play.

The Lions’ game plan of clearing the ball out of their zone at all costs worked

wonders over the scrambling Bulldogs in the final minute, who could not muster

much of a response to Whiting’s boot.

Meredith led a dejected Yale team to the far corner of the stadium after the last

whistle for a markedly long postgame meeting, while Lions players, parents and fans took the field and snapped photo after photo of the impromptu party. Captain Eleni Benson ’06 echoed the team’s sentiment that tonight was clearly the low point of the 2005 season.

“We are just very upset,” she said. “This is such a huge disappointment to lose

here, even though as far as the Ivies, we can still win.”

Benson also said the team had been “worried” in light of last weekend’s tie with Penn, another underdog, that broke an 11-game winning streak. Meredith said that history was on the Lions’ side.

“I actually did expect that this might happen,” he said. “I don’t know why, but

we usually play like crap when we’re down here. Remember that two years ago, we came down here and lost too.”

Only Meredith will head to Boston Saturday morning to scout the Harvard-Dartmouth game, but Ohiri Field will be the focus of all of Yale soccer nation. The Bulldogs still stand in first place with 10 points, one ahead of Dartmouth and Columbia. While a victory over the Big Green in New Haven next Wednesday still means an Ivy title, Dartmouth can leapfrog over Yale into first with a win tomorrow. Still, if the Elis win their next two games, they are guaranteed the ring.

“In the end, we still control our destiny,” Meredith said.