It’s hard enough trying to beat one opponent, but when you’re trying to hold off two foes, it’s just downright difficult.
On Saturday night, the Bulldogs had to battle the Penn Quakers in addition to tropical storm-like weather, and the result was a brutal scoreless tie. The 0-0 game was highly entertaining as the Parents’ Weekend crowd of over 500 oohed and aahed all the way to the final overtime whistle. But sporadic rain and winds of up to 40 miles an hour was too much for either team to overcome.
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“The weather nullified a lot of both teams’ offense [but made it] a little bit easier for the defense,” head coach Rudy Meredith said.
That weather was also unfortunate for the Bulldogs (7-5-2, 2-2-1 Ivy) because Penn (8-4-3, 2-1-2) had the ball in the first half with the wind at its back. Penn’s athletic attackers combined with passes elongated by the tailwind definitely gave Penn the advantage at the start of the game.
“The wind was difficult to play against because you get a lot more tired running into it, and it really wears you down,” captain Emma Whitfield ’09 said. “Then we had the wind at our back in the second half, but the rain started, so it was hard to see.”
The coach echoed those sentiments, noting that the wind also changed when the Elis took the field in the second half.
“I thought that whoever had the wind behind them first would probably win the game because you never know if the wind will change,” Meredith said. “By the second half, the wind had changed direction a little bit and didn’t necessarily help us as much as it helped them.”
Although Penn had the wind at their backs, the efforts of goalkeeper Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 kept the game scoreless. On a scrambling play early in the second half, Quaker defender Michelle Drugan blasted a line drive hard and away from 25 yards out. Out of position, Sumiyasu made a circus jump-save to punch the ball above the crossbar while toppling backwards. That kind of goalkeeping was indicative of a spectacular outing for Sumiyasu, who earned high praise from the coach.
“Ayana really stepped up big today and kept us in the game,” he said.
But Yale was not without its own scoring opportunities. In the 12th minute, Penn goalie Cailly Carroll came out of the box to track down a ball, but Miyuki Hino ’12 knocked it away before Carroll could get to it, leaving a seemingly open net for Hino. However, an off-balance Hino was not able to get enough leg into the shot, and a Quaker defender was able to clear the ball away right before it crossed the goal line.
“Because of the conditions, it was really hard to play the nice clean style that we usually play,” Hino said. “The tie was an accurate reflection of the game — neither team really outplayed the other, and we went back and forth a lot.”
That kind of back and forth play in the slippery and windy conditions made for a very physical matchup. Swirling winds especially messed with air balls as the women pushed and shoved for position. With that kind of physicality throughout the entire game, one would expect the referees to blow the whistles early and often. But as Meredith noted, the referees really let the physicality go, leading to even more physical plays.
“When you blow the whistle a lot in a physical game, the girls know not to play too physically because they’ll gets called for fouls,” he said. “But when you don’t call things when they happen, the girls just keep pushing farther and farther and it makes for an extremely physical game.”
But the officials did issue a yellow card against the Elis in the first half. While jostling for the ball, Maggie Westfal ’09 was carded when she retaliated after a Quaker defender pushed her and then pulled her jersey.
“I was surprised at that yellow card,” Meredith said. “The girl was pulling [Westfal’s] jersey — which is an automatic foul — before [Westfal] pushed back. So if the referees had called the foul on Penn, then there would be no yellow card.”
The yellow card seemed to be a turning point in the first half because Yale had started the game very aggressively — something that it had struggled to do in previous games. After the yellow card, however, Penn began to take control of the ball, and most of the action took place on the Bulldogs’ side of the field.
“We really emphasized coming out and playing well from the beginning because we usually don’t, and it’s one of our biggest problems,” Whitfield said. “But maybe as we played on, because of the high defensive pressure, we got a little fatigued.”
Indeed, Penn played a very active game. Whitfield noted that the Penn’s forwards were very fast and crafty, while its defenders pressured Yale all night. Eli forwards even had difficulty turning around to face the goal because the Quaker defenders were right up on their backs.
“I think their athleticism really wore us down, but overall, I was pretty happy with our offensive performance,” Meredith said. “I think we lost our composure in the final third and didn’t really connect on passes once we got close to their goal. But beyond that, we did a good job.”
For now though, a good job will no longer be enough. This weekend’s tie maintained the one point difference between Penn and Yale in the Ivy League standings prior to the game. However, Harvard’s win over Princeton on Saturday means that Harvard has a five point lead for the Ivy title over the Elis. Despite that, the Bulldogs no longer control their own destiny and as long as Harvard does not lose and tie in their last two games, Yale will not be able to take the Ivy title.
“Mathematically, we’re still in it, even though Harvard now controls everything,” Meredith said. “But this league is crazy — Cornell beat Brown this weekend, which nobody really expected — so anything can happen.”