Maybe it was a dose of good luck. Maybe it was the lights and the football field and the chilly November night. Maybe it was just a great game by a team playing in sync.
Whatever the explanation, the men’s soccer team shut out another Ancient Eight opponent yesterday.
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“It was one of those games where everyone stepped up and we got the result,” defender Alex Guzinski ’09 said.
Yale (4-7-5, 2-2-2 Ivy) defeated Princeton (5-9-2, 3-3), 2-0, last night at Princeton Stadium in an evenly fought match. The visitors came out on top because of an excellent team effort, scoring two goals in the waning minutes of the game and holding off a potent Tiger front line.
The opening half saw the Bulldogs bring a spirited effort in the midfield, something they have failed to do in recent matches. The Elis controlled the ball well on offense and battled on the wings against Princeton midfielder Ben Harms and defender Matt Kontos, who had solid performances.
“It helped that we were playing with three center mids,” midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10 said. “Andy [Shorten ’11] played great and Dale [Peterson ’11] distributed the ball really well. Normally [in] that sort of game we would have tied, but we capitalized on our opportunities today, and that’s how we should win games.”
But the midfielders also got a piece of the action on the defensive end and put up a strong showing in guarding their territory. The flow and movement in the midfield were backed up by an impressive defensive effort — the Eli back line blocked four shots and held the Tigers’ top scorer, forward Kyle McHugh, to just three shots on goal.
“The most important thing was to play smart — when we did, we contained their offense,” Guzinski said. “When we deviated and played too small, we created problems.”
The consistently effective defense fended off Princeton’s second-half offensive surge and interfered with most balls played in the air. The back line, anchored by center defenders Guzinski and Frank Piasta ’09, flawlessly deflected the heightened pressure from the Tigers.
On the wings, defenders James Craig ’08 and Max Rhodes ’09 battled against the tough Princeton attackers and pushed the ball up the lines, as they have done all season.
“The defense is always going to give 100 percent,” captain and goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 said. “We’ve almost come to take that for granted. But the two goals turned a good performance into a win instead of a tie.”
The keepers, Geiger and Dwayne Whylly ’08, posted four saves apiece and snatched the ball out of danger on many of the eight Princeton corner kicks.
But the match was fairly even in the first 77 minutes, until the Bulldogs broke through the Tigers’ ranks.
On a free kick just outside the box that resulted from a foul call that favored the Elis, Raybould knocked the ball off the wall of defenders to forward Kevin Pope ’10, who passed it to midfielder Brad Rose ’11. Rose launched the ball into the lower right corner to put the Bulldogs ahead, 1-0.
The home team almost retaliated to even the score when Tiger midfielder Devin Muntz took control of the ball and hit a long cross that looked to find the lower corner but went just wide.
“They serve the ball quickly, and we were under a lot of pressure,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “But our guys stood their ground. I was pleased to see that when we got under pressure in the second half, we were able to counter with a goal and change the momentum.”
The Bulldogs did not seem to be content with a shallow lead and put the show stopper in the goal with 15 seconds left on the clock.
On a run upfield, Rhodes passed the ball to Rose, who, this time around, knocked a short pass to a wide-open Pope. The sophomore extended the lead to two with a well-placed shot into the back of the net. Pope, the Bulldogs’ leading goal-scorer this season, upped his total to four yesterday.
The match brings the Elis’ record to 2-1 in conference road games but leaves them in the bottom half of Ivy League standings heading into their contest against No. 15 Harvard this Saturday.
“Winning on the road in Ivies isn’t easy — you always have to fight and battle,” Tompkins said. “Soccer is a game of breaks, and soccer owes us a few breaks.”
Soccer helped the Bulldogs come out on top yesterday, but the squad’s effort and ability to capitalize in front of the net in Princeton put the game away against their final conference foes on the road.