With a new year comes a new set of challenges and a new set of opportunities.

The Yale women’s soccer team finished at a disappointing sixth in the Ivy League with an 8-7-2 mark overall in 2008. It was a frustrating season where five of the Elis’ seven losses came by just one goal. It was also a result that was completely unforeseen by head coach Rudy Meredith.

“If you told me that we were going to be seventh before this season, I would’ve bet my house against you,” he said in the aftermath of the Bulldogs’ final game last season. “I’d probably be homeless now, and maybe I deserve it. We are an extremely talented squad and as the coach, I’m going to take full responsibility for this season because we definitely underachieved.”

With the coach taking full blame, the Elis have rallied around each other and will be looking to play to their full potential after learning their lessons from last year. Team chemistry is better than ever, and the entire team is united in its goal of winning the Ivy League title — and with it, a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

“I have high expectations for us this year, and that’s definitely uniform across the board from the coaches to all the players,” captain Sophia Merrifield ’10 said. “We’re really fit this year, we’ve got a great attitude, a great work ethic, and our team chemistry is as great as it’s ever been. We’re a very close team, we’ve got one goal in mind, and we’re just gonna get after it this year.”

A successful spring and preseason has given the Elis a lot of confidence behind a much more explosive attack — something the methodical yet sometimes predictable offense could not do last year. Indeed, the Bulldogs often dominated the time of possession and virtually every statistical category — only to be outscored in the late stages of a match. This year, the team will be looking for more opportunities to attack, and by extension, better results.

“One of our biggest goals this season is actually to score more goals,” Meredith said. “Our defense is fine and we’ve got a lot of great veterans playing back there, but oftentimes last year, we simply didn’t score enough goals. Therefore, I’d like for us to be more explosive this year.”

That could be wishful thinking this year, since the Bulldogs lost two of their goal scorers and anchors on the offense, former captain and forward Emma Whitfield ’09 and midfielder Maggie Westfal ’09. However, a more experienced class of upperclassmen and a strong freshman class are more than ready to make up the difference. Forward Becky Brown ’11 almost set Yale’s single season record for assists and will be a dual scoring and passing threat. Leslie Perez ’10, Miyuki Hino ’12 and Enma Mullo ’12, amongst other returning key players, will also be dangerous on the offense.

The real story, however, lies with the freshmen. In fact, the Elis have a staggering eight new faces on the team this year and the contributions of the freshman class will be integral to the success of the team.

If the preseason is any indication of their young players’ mettle, then the Bulldogs will be in a great position to contend for a title. Jenny Butwin ’13 and Mary Kubiuk ’13 have already scored goals this year in a 4-0 exhibition win against McGill, and Lauren Mathy ’13 and Kristen Forster ’13 will also play key roles on the offensive and defensive ends.

“We just want to be able to come in and make an impact,” Kubiuk said, speaking for the other freshmen in her class. “We feel like we’re ready to make contributions and we’re all ready to achieve our goal of winning the Ivy League championship.”

The buzzword around the team this year is the Ivy League title, and if the Bulldogs’ overall team chemistry, united attitude, and work ethic are any indication of success, they may have a chance to make their goal a reality. The Elis will kick off their campaign for the title at 7 p.m. on Friday against Wagner in their home and season opener.