The Yale women’s soccer team blanked its first three opponents, but yesterday Northwestern’s squad left the Bulldogs looking at a shutout from the other side.

The Elis’ 1-0 loss to Big Ten opponent Northwestern (3-4-2) was a reality check for Yale (3-1), as the team had amassed 12 goals entering the match but was unable get on the scoreboard against the Wildcats.

“This game shows we have a lot to work on before the Ivy games start, and I hope we can learn from this and make some adjustments in practice,” captain and defender Sophia Merrifield ’10 said.

Head coach Rudy Meredith also took Sunday’s competition as a learning experience.

“They were definitely our best test, so it was good – I’m all right with it,” he said of Northwestern. “They are a full scholarship team, and they play in a good conference, so this is no surprise for them.”

The game marked Yale’s first encounter with a school from the Big Ten, a conference that includes powerhouse teams like Penn State.

Still, Yale and Northwestern looked evenly matched during the first half. While the Wildcats outshot the Bulldogs eight to four, Yale had slightly greater possession and neither team scored.

Goalkeeper Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 made just one save to block the only shot either side had on net.

Both teams ratcheted up the intensity when the second half began, but Northwestern gradually took control of the game’s pace and never let up the pressure.

“I thought, in the second half, that we would have more energy than them because they played Friday, but that wasn’t the case,” Meredith said. “We could have played a little better. I thought we made some bad decisions at times, partly because of the pressure they put on us.”

One minute after resuming play, midfielder Enma Mullo ’12 got a shot off but Northwestern’s goalkeeper Carolyn Edwards made the save. An immediate counterattack and shot from the Wildcats was saved by Sumiyasu.

Northwestern came dangerously close to scoring with just less than 30 minutes remaining when a shot from a corner kick went barely wide. Another pair of Wildcat attempts soared narrowly by the net minutes later.

Then in the 70th minute of play Northwestern finally broke the 0-0 tie when Kendall Thoreson sent the ball flying over the head of Sumiyasu and into the upper right corner of the goal from 25 yards out.

Down by one, Yale tried to keep up their intensity in the fast-paced match, but the Bulldog players just could not get through Northwestern’s lines and Yale’s shots were repeatedly stopped.

Merrifield said, “[Northwestern] came to play and their energy didn’t diminish at all in 90 minutes. I think that they played well together in the back. I think they knew our strengths going into the game and were able to defend well against what our strategy was.”

Yale’s best attempt on goal came with an indirect kick in the 77th minute of play, but Mullo’s shot was blocked, and then Edwards saved the rebound ball sent by midfielder Kate Macauley ’11.

“We weren’t getting enough people forward, I guess,” Macauley said. “It was a battle all over the field, but they just outplayed us. It was a pretty even game, and it could have gone either way.”

Mullo added that Yale had several missed opportunities to score.

“One thing we didn’t do well was take advantage of switching the field and switching the attack,” she said. “They were very one-sided. We didn’t do that as much as we should have, but when we did, we were dangerous.”

Yale and Northwestern took six shots apiece in the second half, but only the Wildcats scored. Sumiyasu closed her day with three saves.

Yale competes next against Stony Brook on Wednesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Reese Stadium.