Two second-half goals cost the women’s soccer team in a heartbreaking weekend in Portland, Ore.

The Bulldogs (1-4, 0-0 Ivy) suffered back-to-back losses by a single goal to the University of Washington (2-4), 2-1, and No. 4 Portland (5-1), 1-0, at the Nike Portland Invitational this weekend. After playing evenly with the two nationally acclaimed teams, the Bulldogs were disappointed that they could not return home with any wins.

“We now know we can compete with the top-level teams in the country, and we expect that from ourselves,” defender Hayley Zevenbergen ’09 said. “This was very good preparation for the rest of the season, even though the results don’t necessarily show it.”

On Friday, the Bulldogs dropped their first game of the tournament to the University of Washington, the weaker of the two opponents they faced. The Elis dominated the opening half, outshooting the Huskies 8-3 and getting several quality chances on goal. Forward Becky Brown ’11 finally put one away at 37:05, converting a Maggie Westfal ’09 feed inside the box to give Yale a 1-0 edge going into the break. Her goal broke a two-game scoreless streak for the Elis as well.

But the Huskies turned things around in the second half, tying the score just 35 seconds after the opening whistle on a goal by forward Shuree Hyatt. Hyatt also notched the game winner 15 minutes later, knocking a header in off a free kick by defender Nikki Murray. Despite pressure from Brown, Westfal, Leslie Perez ’10, Eliza Walper ’10 and Kate Macauley ’11, Washington goalie Taylor Carr held down the Husky net, enabling her squad to sneak past the Elis by a final score of 2-1.

Head coach Rudy Meredith said that the two Husky goals were a result of “mental lapses” and that overall it was a good game despite the loss.

The real heartbreaker took place on Sunday afternoon, however, when the Elis squared off against Portland. The Bulldogs played with the Pilots until the 81st minute, an impressive feat considering that Portland is known as one of the top teams in the nation. Before the game, captain Mary Kuder ’08 — who transferred to Yale from Portland after her freshman season — said that the Pilots will be one of the toughest opponents the Elis face this season.

So the energy on the Bulldog squad could not have been higher when the score was still deadlocked at 0-0 well into the second half. It was then, with just under 10 minutes remaining, that the Pilots got a lucky break on a corner kick and forward Natalie Budge managed to put the ball past goalie Ayana Sumiyasu ’11. The Elis had several opportunities to retaliate, including three corner kicks in the remaining minutes, but could not find the equalizer before the final whistle blew.

“Today was the best we’ve played all season,” Meredith said after the game. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the result we wanted. Our effort was unbelievable.”

Portland goalkeeper Kelsey Davis made a huge impact on the Pilots’ game, thwarting the Bulldogs twice in one-on-one situations and finishing with four saves. Susan Starr ’08 and Sumiyasu split time in the net yet again for the Elis, each finishing with three stops.

“We weren’t happy that we lost to Portland, but we played them so well that we’re happy with what we did,” Zevenbergen said. “They’re all very skilled players, and everyone on our team came ready to play.”

The cross-country campaign marks the end of a difficult set of early games for the Bulldogs. Meredith said he intentionally schedules games against some of the toughest opponents in the country to help his team prepare for the rest of the season and their Ivy League opener at the end of the month. The squad will not leave the state of Connecticut for the next four weeks, starting with Sacred Heart Wednesday night.