Two losses are as many as the women’s soccer team is willing to accept this season.
After falling to No. 15 Duke and the No. 5 University of North Carolina in the Yale Classic last weekend, the Bulldogs (0-2) are ready to wipe the slate clean and return to the tradition of dominance that the 2005 season brought them. The defending Ivy League champions, who advanced to the NCAA College Cup’s Sweet Sixteen last season, will face Delaware (4-0) on Friday and Montana (2-2) on Sunday in the Delaware Classic.
“We’re planning on going undefeated the rest of the season, and we want to win in a major way,” midfielder Mimi Macauley ’07 said. “We’re going to play our strategy, we’re going to look at the tapes and we’re going to come to them with the strongest team we can. We started with Duke and North Carolina so that we would be able to go undefeated the rest of the season.”
Though the Elis’ first hurdle, Delaware, lacks the 17 NCAA College Cup titles and multiple All-American players of UNC, the Blue Hens nevertheless will be a challenging opponent this weekend. Delaware has outscored opponents 12-1 in its first four games and is experiencing its best start since 1994’s 5-0 opening.
“They’re a team that might win the conference and has a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said. “They’re more game-tested because they’ve played four games already, and we’ve only played two. They’ve had the chance to make some adjustments, and we’re still going through that a little bit.”
The Eli defense, which saw the likes of two-time All-American and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Heather O’Reilly last week, will find its primary challenge in Delaware freshman Melissa Kilker, who scored two goals and assisted on one more in the team’s last two games. Defenders Hayley Zevenbergen ’09 and captain Christina Huang ’07 will look to put a halt to the Blue Hens’ scoring run.
After the Bulldogs face off against the Blue Hens, they will take on the University of Montana. The Grizzlies’ offense, like that of the Blue Hens, has been streaking through the team’s last several games. The Grizzlies have outshot every one of their opponents so far this year and have recently begun to capitalize on their numerous scoring opportunities. Most recently, Montana trounced the University of Idaho, 4-0, on the road.
Since Delaware and Montana are non-league, unranked teams, the Bulldogs are more focused on playing the best game they can, regardless of the competition the Blue Hens and the Grizzlies put on the field this weekend.
The Yale offense, led by Crysti Howser ’09 and Maggie Westfal ’09, will be looking for its first goal of the season this weekend. A lack of communication, coupled with the defensive prowess of Duke and UNC, limited the Bulldog forwards during the Yale Classic. The Elis are confident that they will be able to work through those difficulties and find the net.
“The problem with the games [last weekend] is that we made a lot of little mistakes,” Macauley said. “What’s encouraging about that is that little mistakes can be fixed. The heart and muscle are there.”
The Bulldogs may be facing unfamiliar opponents on the road, but they are sure of one thing. Another loss is not an option.
“Regardless of how good they are or how bad they are, these two games are must-win games,” Huang said. “This past weekend was an eye-opener, but from now on we need to go undefeated. I think our team is going to be more mentally prepared, and we’re determined to get two victories if we can.”