The goalpost was not a friend of the women’s soccer team Saturday night.
The Bulldogs had to swallow a tough 1-0 loss to Princeton at Reese Stadium this past weekend. After a sluggish start in the first half, a high-intensity second half gave the Elis several chances to score, but two run-ins with the goalposts stopped Yale (4-4-1, 0-1 Ivy) from scoring. With the win, Princeton (4-1-1, 1-0) snapped a three-game losing streak to Yale.
The turf at Reese Stadium was slippery and wet, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the Yale supporters, who came out in droves for the team’s Ivy League season opener. The weather might not have stifled the supporters, but the Elis’ play in the first half certainly did.
“We were almost a little taken aback at the beginning of the game and took a while to adjust to the pace of the game,” forward Becky Brown ’11 said. “[Princeton] came at us so hard and fast with their intensity from the get-go.”
The Tiger’s intensity put the Bulldogs on their heels as play overwhelmingly took place on the Yale end.
“They were winning the balls in the air and just kept going at our defense. We never gained possession of the ball and every time we did, we lost it at midfield,” Brown said. “We didn’t have that many opportunities at offense because we never got the ball.”
Princeton’s aerial dominance eventually led to good scoring opportunities for them from free kicks and corner kicks. In the 19th minute, Princeton’s Lauren Whatley took a corner kick that corkscrewed toward the goal. Goalie Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 couldn’t hang onto it, and the Elis watched helplessly as the ball rolled into the net for a Princeton lead.
“The ball kind of hung in the air, and the Princeton attacker in front of me went for the ball at the same time as I did,” Sumiyasu said about the goal. “It was a bit of a fluke play, but regardless, I definitely should’ve made the save.”
While it was unfortunate that such a play led to the opening goal, the setback also exposed a defensive weakness that has increasingly crept into Yale’s games.
“We really have to work on defending crosses from the right side,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “I think about 60 percent to 70 percent of our opponents’ goals have come from that situation, so it’s really on all of our defense, not just Ayana, that Princeton scored that little bit of a fluke goal.”
Heading into the second half with a one-goal deficit, the Elis regrouped and came out a lot more aggressively. A large part of that was because Yale was suddenly winning air balls because of the play of Megan Ashforth ’10.
“Princeton has a little bit of a height advantage on us, and they were exploiting us,” Meredith said. “Megan is our best header, and we moved her to the middle of the field because of that issue.”
The extra touches finally established an offensive rhythm for the Bulldogs as they repeatedly came down the field to set up shots.
That’s when Lady Luck decided to join the Tigers.
With 14 minutes to go, Sophia Merrifield ’10 tapped a header off a corner kick that soared past the Princeton goalkeeper but clipped the inside of the right post and somehow bounced outward. The referee ruled it a no-goal, and the home crowd roared with disapproval. Three minutes later, the Elis made another rush towards the net as Brown sent a cross past the Princeton keeper to Leslie Perez ’10, who seemingly had an open net. Yet once again the ball met the post, careening off the bottom of the crossbar before being cradled by the goalkeeper. At this point, the home fans were simply in disbelief that the two shots did not yield goals, and they began to berate the referees heavily.
“In my mind, I think ultimately, the refs got it right,” midfielder Miyuki Hino ’12 said. “There wasn’t really anything obvious to argue that it was a goal or it wasn’t a goal.”
The Bulldogs would have a few more chances to score in the half but it was just not their night. The 1-0 decision did not resonate well with the coach.
“I really only wanted one main focus for the game, and that was to not let them outwork us,” Meredith said. “But that’s exactly what [Princeton] did in the first 30 minutes. You never want to play catch-up in an Ivy League game, and we really should’ve gone into the half at 0-0. Instead, we gave up a soft goal, and we had to press for the rest of the game.”
Despite the loss early in the season, the players remain hopeful for the rest of the season.
“Now our backs are against the wall,” Brown said. “We just need to put the loss out of our minds and take the rest of our conference games one at a time.”