With their first-ever outright Ivy Championship and a record-tying 13 wins, the Elis (13-3-1, 5-1-1 Ivy) have the opportunity of a lifetime as they host three games of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend. In gearing up for tomorrow night’s first-round match against Central Connecticut (17-3), here are some aspects of the game the Bulldogs should focus on:
1. There’s no place like New Haven. Yale head coach Rudy Meredith billed the Elis’ first chance to play an NCAA Tournament game at home a “dream come true.” For a team that has not lost at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium since Sept. 24, 2004, that is hardly an understatement. Backed up by their newfound legions of fans, the Elis must seize the opportunity on their last weekend without a long bus ride or a strange hotel. If the Elis advance to Sunday, the southern belles from the Tar Heel State might be a little shaken by a brisk November afternoon in Connecticut.
2. One Blue Devils squad at a time. Before the Elis lick their chops at the chance for vengeance against Duke in a second-round game Sunday, they first have a different Blue Devils team to reckon with. And this bunch from a few exits up I-91 is hardly a pushover, reeling off 13 wins in their final 14 chances after losing to Yale on Sept. 11. The Bulldogs got into big trouble when they underestimated Columbia three weeks ago and cannot fall into the same trap tomorrow.
3. Keep the pressure, up the fundamentals. The Bulldogs have effortlessly kept almost every recent game focused in enemy territory. Due to that trend, they have outshot opponents 252 to 150 on the year. With a spectacular defense that has only allowed 10 goals in 17 games, it is natural that the offense will have plenty of chances. The Elis have put together their best offensive performances of the season when they stick diligently to a pass-oriented game up front, anchored in clean, crisp crosses from the wings.
4. A little aggression isn’t half bad. In battles against Dartmouth and Brown to finish off the regular season, emotions ran high and physical contact was plentiful. While by no means playing dirty, the Elis have thrived on high tension, especially late in games, and it might not hurt to kick up the intensity if the opportunity arises.
5. Be the favorite, think like the underdog. Being the favorite is unfamiliar territory for this upstart squad, and the Elis may have fallen victim to their success at certain points this season. At Columbia, Yale dawdled out of the gate, fell behind early against a team driving for the upset, and never recovered. The best performances — such as the victory over Dartmouth on Nov. 2 that kept the Bulldogs’ Ivy title hopes alive — come when the squad plays with its backs against the wall and unleashes its offense right off the bat.
Analyses on this page compiled by Staff Reporter Brady Cassis and Contributing Reporter Kanya Balakrishna.