The pessimism surrounding what has been a fairly lackluster season for the women’s soccer team disappeared just 28 seconds into the Elis’ game Wednesday against the Central Connecticut Blue Devils.
A moment after the whistle blew, the Bulldogs (3-3-1) exploded onto the field as defender Natasha Mann ’09 put the ball in the back of the net, setting the tone for the rest of the match. The Elis, still learning to play together as a team, ended the match in a 3-0 victory over the Blue Devils (3-6).
After Mann’s quick goal, the offense connected with its passes and combined plays well enough to put pressure on the CCSU defense. Just under six minutes into the game, forward Emma Whitfield ’09 took the ball on a breakaway from midfield to put a second goal over the keeper’s head. Still, Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said he was unsure whether the Elis would be able to hold their lead.
“2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer,” Meredith said, “I told [the women] at halftime, the next team to score wins.”
Meredith got his wish. About 15 minutes into the second half, Whitfield took the ball up the line and crossed it to forward Maggie Westfal ’09, who hit the ball on a one-timer to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead over the Blue Devils. Westfal was unfazed by the all-important third goal and attributed the success to her teammates.
“It was an amazing cross,” Westfal said. “I have to give all the credit to [Whitfield].”
Goalkeeper Susan Starr ’08 said the game was a team effort. She spoke highly of the camaraderie on the team and said all the players are in sync with each other, in spite of so many early-season injuries. Meredith also said he is impressed that the team has pulled together despite some players’ injuries.
“I’m very proud to be at the level to get through all the injuries and beat a quality team,” Meredith said. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Injuries have been the name of the game for the women so far, with captain Christina Huang ’07, starting goalkeeper Chloe Beizer ’07, forward Leslie Perez ’10 and midfielder Crysti Howser ’09 on the bench because of injuries. Starr herself has a foot injury, even though she is playing in place of the sidelined Beizer.
“It was really challenging [to replace Beizer] because Chloe is a big presence on the team,” Starr said. “Those are big shoes to fill. It’s been up and down, but it’s been rewarding.”
Meredith said he is proud of Starr for stepping up because, until Marcela Benitez ’07 rejoined the team about a week ago, she was the only goalkeeper. Despite the injuries and setbacks, other players have become leaders on the team. Last night, five of the 11 starting players were sophomores.
“They definitely have more leadership, because they’ve played in these games before,” Meredith said. “They have more experience this year.”
That experience paid off in the 3-0 victory. The team began the game disorganized in the midfield, with midfielders not connecting passes and consistently being beat to the ball by the Blue Devils. But the defense played long balls out of the back to jumpstart the offense and the front line kept possession in the offensive third.
“We were rushing and panicking when there was no need,” Meredith said. “We had to relax.”
After halftime the team did find its rhythm and started to control the game. After the third goal, the team relaxed and began to pass around Central Connecticut and played with more confidence than it had in the first half. This added confidence will serve the Elis well this weekend, when they take on Princeton at home in their first Ivy matchup of the season.