These are the times that try the women’s soccer team’s soul. Winning could have meant weeks more of soccer to come, but losing has cost it all hope.

After making strides against Penn on Oct. 21, the Elis (6-7-2, 2-3-1 Ivy) lost to Columbia (9-4-3, 5-0-1), 2-0, this past Saturday at Reese Stadium. With the win, Columbia, the only undefeated team in Ivy League competition, secured its first-place spot in the Ancient Eight.

For the Bulldogs, however, the devastating loss forces them to accept a losing record in both Ivy and regular season competition and ends all speculation about their post-season potential. Yale will not advance to NCAA College Cup tournament.

After a scoreless first half, the Lions were able to pull out goals in the 59th and 89th minutes. Columbia’s Emma Judkins headed a Shannon Munoz direct kick past Eli goaltender Susie Starr ’08 to light up the scoreboard.

“It wasn’t a great goal, but it was really hard for us to come back,” forward Emma Whitfield ’09 said.

Shannon Munoz tallied the Lions’ insurance goal, settling a feed from Megan Hurlbut before driving the ball home. Judkins and Munoz scored what Yale head coach Rudy Meredith called “soft goals.”

“The problem is that we gave up soft goals and didn’t score,” he said. “They worked really hard. So did we. They were just able to score, and we weren’t.”

Forward Crysti Howser ’09 had the Bulldogs’ two most promising opportunities to score, but neither was realized. After shooting a signature header off a cross from Maggie Westfal ’09 that ricocheted off the cross bar, Howser fired a shot the left wing that narrowly missed the goal.

It’s the same story that the team has heard all season, Meredith said. Despite their skill and teamwork, the players have not been able to finish on their goal-scoring chances.

Although the Elis narrowly outshot the Lions, 10-9, only two of their attempts on goal warranted action by Lion netminder Allison Vespa. Starr saved two for the Bulldogs.

Yale has only been able to put four goals past its Ivy opponents this season and has scored just two goals in the last five games.

“I honestly felt we played really well and had a lot of good shots, but nothing was going in,” Whitfield said. “Columbia was just lucky.”

The frustrating fact is that the Bulldogs won’t advance past this week’s games against Quinnipiac and Brown. These final season moments are for the players, Meredith said.

“It’s important for us to realize that we are capable of better and for us to step up and show that we are better than our record,” he said.

In such times, the anticlimax of the final season games forces the team to look back on last season for answers as to what went wrong.

“If somebody told me we’d be in this position coming off last season, I wouldn’t have believed him,” Meredith said.

After winning the Ivy League Championship last season, the Elis went on to rank 13th in the final NSCAA national poll, but they have faltered this season in their quest to repeat last year’s unprecedented success.