Nothing builds team chemistry quite like a win and a weekend barbecue.
Coming off its first victory of the season — a 1-0 win over Montana in the Blue Hen Adidas Classic — and some team bonding at the Delaware home of midfielder Sarah Milby ’07, the women’s soccer team (1-2-1) is looking to carry its momentum into this weekend’s games against regional rivals UMass (4-1-0) and Hartford (1-5-0). Friday’s showdown against a surging UMass squad at the Bulldogs’ Reese Stadium is critical both for its regional ranking implications and as preparation for next Saturday’s Ivy League matchup against Princeton.
Despite starting off slowly with losses to women’s soccer powerhouses Duke and UNC, the Bulldogs still have high hopes for these upcoming matches and the season.
“We’re taking this season one game at a time,” forward Emma Whitfield ’09 said. “We obviously had a rough start with Duke and UNC, but we’re looking to turn things around this weekend as we get prepared for the Ivies.”
The path to turning the season around began last Friday with a 1-1 tie against Delaware, and continued as Whitfield scored the team’s only goal in last Sunday’s 1-0 win over Montana. Since Sunday’s victory, the team claims to have looked inward to prepare for this Friday’s UMass game and Sunday’s afternoon kickoff at Hartford.
“In practice this week, we didn’t focus on specific competition,” midfielder Emily Haddad ‘07 said. “We always focus on ourselves and on playing our own game.”
Yet before they challenge the Minutewomen this Friday, the nicked-up Bulldogs need to recuperate from some early-season bumps and bruises.
“We’ve had to fight through a couple of injuries,” Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said. “Everyone will have to be prepared to step up. We may ask players to change their roles based on who’s going to be playing this weekend.”
The Bulldogs will definitely need strong play to defeat a surprising UMass squad that has already recorded a victory over then-No. 21 Boston College. While Meredith said he expects a well-coached, well-disciplined Minutewomen team to bring a high level of intensity to the match, he said he is not focused solely on the box score.
“The most important thing is that we come out of this weekend saying that we’ve played well,” he said.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs travel to Hartford to face the Hawks, who recorded their only victory this season at home in the opener with a 3-0 win over Albany. Hawks forward Megan Riemer finished with two goals and an assist in her first game since joining the Hawks as a junior transfer. Two weeks later, the Hawks suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to UMass, so the Elis will get a chance to see how they compare to both upcoming opponents.
While the Bulldogs have their sights set on their Ivy League opponents, they are definitely not taking this weekend’s games lightly.
“Our expectation is to win the rest of the games this season,” Haddad said. “That’s the high standard we hold ourselves to.”