The men’s soccer team can breathe a sigh of relief. After five weeks, the Bulldogs have finally snapped their six-game losing streak.
Yale (5-9-1, 1-4 Ivy) shut out Albany (7-8-2), 1-0, last night for the first Yale victory since the last days of September — giving head coach Brian Tompkins his 100th career Yale win. Although the Elis left Reese Stadium in their highest spirits in a month, their rough position near the basement of the Ancient Eight ranks will remain unchanged after the non-league triumph.
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In the first half, the visitors appeared to dominate play, as they controlled the ball in the midfield and allowed the Elis few opportunities on goal. The Bulldogs only fired three shots on frame in the period, but rock-solid defending and two saves from keeper Dwayne Whylly ’08 kept the score knotted at zero through halftime.
“[The defense] just came through, especially on aerial challenges,” backup goalkeeper Travis Chulick ’10 said. “They also had some big tackles.”
After the break, the Bulldogs settled their game down and were able to put more pressure on the Albany defense, firing off six shots on goal. The lone score of the game came off a corner kick from star forward Alex Munns ’07 in the 62nd minute. The senior crossed the ball to the middle of the 18-yard box, and it sailed low right in front of midfielder Alex Afsahi ’09. Afsahi dove to head the ball, depositing in into the top left corner of the net. Afsahi’s goal was the first of his Ivy career, and it put the Bulldogs on top, 1-0.
“Alex’s goal was really brave,” Tompkins said. “It was a gutsy header to dive into everyone’s feet like that.”
The Elis’ level of concentration, usually an area needing improvement, increased after they scored, Tompkins said. With seven sophomores seeing playing time last night, and Afsahi scoring the only goal, that class has been stepping up recently.
“Early in the season we relied on the seniors to carry the team,” he said. “But in the second half, I’ve been really pleased with the emergence of the sophomore class. That group has really come alive and that’s a pleasing sign.”
Tompkins also emphasized midfielder Max Rhodes’s ’09 elevated level of play over the past two games. Rhodes played in every minute of last night’s game, after playing in all 90 in Saturday’s game against Penn. The sophomore said he improved after losing his starting job earlier in the season.
“I got an opportunity to watch and saw what I wanted to work on, which was my speed of play,” Rhodes said. “I started playing on the left, which allows me to see the field better and play with my right foot. I’m able to be more creative and vocal because I’ve gotten more confident.”
His play on the outside midfield has helped the Bulldogs to control the game by passing the ball up the line and opening up the field. Midfielders fired off six of the Bulldogs’ nine shots on goal last night.
In the defensive third, the Elis shut down Albany’s offense, allowing 14 shots but conceding no goals. With usual goalie Erik Geiger ’08 getting the night off, Whylly manned the net for the first half, then Chulick made an impressive collegiate debut in the second, stopping six shots.
“We wanted to give [the keepers] an opportunity to play because they work so hard in practice and we wanted to reward them for that,” Tompkins said.
The Elis were switching the field and passing much faster than they usually do, and with only two more league matchups to go, they hope they can ride their momentum and rise out of seventh place.