They said they would win it, and win it they did.
A standing ovation from fans in a packed Soccer-Lacrosse stadium greeted the victorious Elis at the final whistle of the last home match of the season Saturday, as they secured their first outright Ivy League title in the varsity sport’s 28 years at Yale.
For the seniors, Saturday’s match marked their final game in New Haven, and the realization of a four-year dream. The match was also a symbolic transfer of power to the underclassmen, with two goals from freshmen, forwards Crysti Howser ’09 and Maggie Westfal ’09.
Forward Jamie Ortega ’06 said the Elis knew they had the potential to make history at the outset of the season.
“We knew from the start we had a good chance of winning the Ivy League title,” she said. “We wanted it and we got it, and this is everything the team and I ever wanted.”
Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said he attributes this year’s title to a collective effort from the entire squad of 30, all of whom showed great commitment to the team.
“I think this year it was a total team effort,” he said. “The players who did not have the chance to play much still contributed a lot, so I think putting the team ahead of individuals is what made our victory.”
Captain Eleni Benson ’06 said women’s soccer has gradually become prominent at Yale over her four years here, but she thinks this season is a genuine breakthrough.
“We’ve been on the rise, but we’ve never had this many fans before,” she said. “It is the fruit of hard work and the good recruiting of the last few years.”
The Elis’ season is not over, and now they head into the national playoffs next weekend. Midfielder Laurel Karnes ’06 said the team had accomplished its objective for the season and anything more would be icing on the cake, though she thinks victory in the first match is probable.
“The season is not over, and we will be resuming practice on Monday, but I do not feel any pressure,” she said. “As we are on the upper end of the top 64 ranking, we should have a good first game draw.”
The Elis’ place in the 64-team NCAA Tournament will be announced at 5:00 p.m. Monday on ESPNews.
But regardless of the team’s performance in the postseason, the 2005 campaign will be one for the record books. In addition to the Ivy League title, the Bulldogs put together a Yale-record 11-game winning streak. The Elis have won 13 matches so far, equalling the school record set in 1996, 1998 and 2004. It is also the first time the Bulldogs have beaten Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard in the same season.
Benson said she thinks the women’s soccer program at Yale is set to experience a bright future, and she praised the freshmen for their crucial contributions to the team this season.
“The future is bright with the freshmen, who have scored more than half the goals this season (17 of 35), and they have strength in the other domains too,” she said. “This last game, only two seniors were in the starting lineup.”
Meredith said it will be hard to replace the quality of the outgoing seniors, but he will try to reload the team and build on what he already has at his disposal.