Some trends are harder to change than others.

For the third year in a row, the women’s soccer team dropped consecutive games to Duke (1-1-2) and No. 6 North Carolina (2-1). Although the Eli offense never heated up in the sweltering 100-degree heat in North Carolina, the Bulldogs (1-2) refused to give up, proving that they could still play with two of the best teams in the country.

“It was great to see us able to play at that level with those teams,” forward Maggie Westfal ’09 said. “Going forward, we know that if we play that well we should be successful.”

When they faced Duke on Friday, the Elis played a nearly identical game to their 2005 match with the Blue Devils, head coach Rudy Meredith said. After a back-and-forth battle through the first half, Duke finally broke through in the 41st minute of the game — just as the Blue Devils had in the 38th minute of their 2005 meeting — and clung to that one-goal lead to sneak by the Bulldogs.

“We battled really hard, especially in the second half,” Meredith said after the game. “This is definitely something we can build on.”

And comparisons to the 2005 season are not necessarily a bad thing for the Elis, who went on to win the Ivy League that year and exact revenge on the Blue Devils in a 2-1 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Elis suffered a similar fate on Sunday, as they dropped a 4-0 decision to defending NCAA champions UNC in what will surely be considered one of their most daunting challenges on the schedule this season. The squad kept pace with the Tar Heels for the first 31 minutes of the game, until junior transfer Allie Long put a penalty kick past goalie Susan Starr ’08 to give UNC a 1-0 lead. But the Bulldogs continued to hold off their opponents until the 73rd minute, when the Tar Heels raced ahead in a scoring deluge, notching three goals within 15 minutes.

The lopsided score was reflected in the fact that UNC outshot Yale 28-4 over the course of the game. Although the Bulldogs were able to compete in most aspects of play, the stifling Tar Heel defense protected its goal well from any Eli attempt.

“Their outside backs were really fast,” Westfal said. “The opportunities to score were limited because they had such a strong defense.”

But the game was not without its bright spots. Rookie goalie Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 had 10 saves in relief and was named to the All-Tournament team for her 13 stops this weekend. Meredith was also able to give every player on the roster a look, which should be crucial as the Bulldogs prepare for another tough road trip this weekend.

The Elis will be flying cross-country to Portland, Oregon, where they will face Washington and the University of Portland, the top-ranked team in the country.