It had all the makings of a letdown game: the possibility of overlooking the weaker Cornell team right before a key matchup against Penn during Parents’ Weekend; the fatigue of a third consecutive game on the road; and the long, draining drive to the far reaches of Ithaca, N.Y. But the Bulldogs (7-5-1, 2-2 Ivy) stayed mentally strong and earned a win against the Big Red (1-9-1, 0-4 Ivy) on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s always hard playing on the road, especially at Cornell, because it’s so far away,” said captain Emma Whitfield ’09, who scored two of Yale’s goals in the 3-1 victory.
“There were a lot of mental challenges along the way,” she added, “but we did a good job putting away the game.”
Indeed, it would have been easy to underestimate a weak opponent right before facing rival Penn, who is currently above Yale in the rankings by a point. Cornell, winless so far in the Ivy League, is in the middle of a rebuilding period under second-year coach Danielle LaRoche. Even so, the Big Red is a feisty team and always capable of a big upset. But the Elis made sure that didn’t happen this weekend.
“We came out of the gate ready to play and put pressure on them from the beginning,” Whitfield said.
That kind of pressure led to a slew of scoring opportunities right from the outset as Miyuki Hino ’12 quickly scored in the 17th minute.
“Becky gave me a great cross from the end line, and I cut across the front of the goalie to tap the ball in before she could get to it,” Hino explained, referring to Becky Brown ’11.
The cross gave Brown her 10th assist of the season, only one away from the school record set in 1997 by Blanca Fromm ’98.
And the Bulldogs weren’t done threatening to score. Hino had another opportunity to increase the pressure on Cornell during a second one-on-one encounter with the goalie later in the half, but she blasted the shot high. Four minutes later, Brown put a scare into the Big Red faithful when she lined up a shot from close range, but a sigh of relief spread among the Cornell fans as her shot hit the post. Yale would continue on to have three more quality scoring opportunities, but did not score again in the first half.
After halftime, the Elis continued piling on the pressure for a 15-4 shot advantage in the second half and a 21-8 shot advantage overall.
“Coach [Rudy] Meredith always tells us to go for a six-to-one shot advantage,” Hino said. Although the Bulldogs didn’t get that ratio on Saturday, the quality of their shots greatly differed from those of Cornell, and the final score reflected that.
Whitfield scored an insurance goal off of a cross from Maggie Westfal ’09 in the 56th minute as Yale continued testing Cornell goalie Megan Bartlett, who ended up with seven saves.
However, the Big Red put a scare in the Bulldogs when they scored later on in the half, after a controversial no-call, to put the game within one.
“It seemed like everybody on the field could see that the ball had gone out of bounds before the Cornell player (Christina Law) brought it back in,” Hino said. “So we all kind of stopped playing and were waiting for the whistle — but it never came, and they scored.”
Regardless of the circumstances, the goal taught the Bulldogs a valuable lesson.
“The ball might have looked out of bounds from our perspective, but you have to play the game until the whistle,” Meredith said. “That’s how we play in practice, and hopefully, we can learn a lesson from this game.”
Despite the resurgent Big Red attack, the Bulldogs finally put the game out of reach when Westfal again connected with Whitfield, who netted her second goal with barely three minutes left to play.
“We’ve definitely settled into a comfortable style of play now,” Whitfield said. “We’ve got two wins in a row against Ivy opponents, but some things still need to happen with the other teams in the league before we’re in contention for the Ivy title.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs are still four points behind league-leading Princeton, who has yet to lose. However, that may change when second-place Harvard faces the Tigers next week.
“For our Ivy League games, we’ve finally started clicking and playing well,” Meredith said. “For now, we just need to focus on beating Penn, and get a little help from Harvard next weekend.”