Yale maintained a seasonlong trend this weekend: They played a great defensive game against a nationally ranked team with a winning average. But though they managed to hang with No. 4 University of North Carolina, it wasn’t enough to win.

The Bulldogs (2-8, 0-3 Ivy) lost, 3-1, to the Tar Heels (11-3) in a neutral-field game at Boston College on Sunday.

Yale believed they could use what they learned in last weekend’s games against Cornell (8-4, 3-0) and No. 2 Syracuse (14-0) to their advantage.

“Of course I believed we could win the game,” fullback Julia Weiser ’10 said. “No matter the odds, I know there is always a chance for an upset.”

And, at first, there was. Just one minute into the game, forward Ashley McCauley ’10 scored off of an assist from forward Alyssa Jethani ’09, and in the next 42 minutes Yale fended off 20 shots to keep the Tar Heels at zero.

“I was just surprised that no one was on me [before my assist],” Jethani said. “I was so happy when she put it in.”

She said that the difference between this week and last week was that when the Elis got in range of the goal, they actually did something with the ball. The team felt that they executed their game plan and played cohesively and intensely.

UNC regrouped, however. The Bulldogs started allowing second-chance shots that they hadn’t conceded in the first half. Starting at eight minutes in, a trio of goals lifted the Tar Heels out of the Elis’ reach.

Last Sunday’s loss is the fifth in a string of losses for the Elis. Nevertheless, they are unfazed by their losing average. They have had a tough schedule, head coach Pam Stuper said. Of their 10 opponents, seven have been ranked or received votes in the national polls.

After Yale’s game against a leading team on Sunday, the UNC coach, Karen Shelton, made a point of complimenting Stuper on the Bulldogs’ play.

“Getting that type of respect from an opponent like that means something,” she said.

Looking ahead, the last seven games of the season are critical for the Bulldogs to improve their average. But they are confident about the odds.

“Given the way we’ve played against top teams in the country,” Weiser said, “I don’t think anyone could doubt that we have the potential to beat any opponent we face.”

They feel more than prepared to return to Ivy League play this weekend against Dartmouth. In terms of the championship, it is unlikely that No. 12 Princeton (9-1, 3-0) will drop three games to give the Elis a shot at topping the conference. But Yale hopes to compete for the second or third spot, Stuper said.

“Aside from Princeton, it’s anybody’s game,” she said.