With 13 seconds left on the clock, the men’s soccer team scored a goal that made Saturday night’s game one to be remembered.
Yale (4-5-3, 1-2 Ivy) overcame a 3-2 deficit in the last 10 minutes to defeat Cornell (5-4-3, 0-1-2) and win its first Ivy League game, 4-3, in style.
For the first time all season, the Elis had a reason to run off the field in celebration Saturday night. But it seemed that each of the seven goals was a sudden-death point as the match’s heated intensity made the Bulldogs’ victory that much sweeter.
“The game got very emotional in the second half,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Then we calmed down and started to pass again and made it more about soccer than emotion. The last 15 minutes or so I thought we played very well, and I had a feeling that we could get that equalizing goal.”
The Elis came out strong, surging ahead to a 2-0 lead by the 35-minute mark. After midfielder Andy Hackbarth ’12 found fellow midfielder Jon Carlos ’10 open on the right wing with a precise through-ball, Carlos’ early cross connected with forward Brad Rose ’11, whose well-placed tap passed the out-of-position goalkeeper, putting the Elis up a goal. Rose has two goals and an assist in the team’s last three games and leads the team with 12 points this season.
Twenty minutes later, Hackbarth launched a free kick from 30 yards out that ricocheted off the crossbar and into the goal, doubling the Bulldogs’ lead. Hackbarth and defender Chris Dennen ’12 found themselves in unusual positions on Saturday in an ongoing effort to balance the squad technically. After playing central midfield last season, Hackbarth moved to center defense at the beginning of this season only to move back on Saturday, while Dennen had previously played midfielder/forward for the Bulldogs. Dennen’s speed was a boon on defense, while Hackbarth controlled the midfield well, proving to Tompkins that his strategy is paying off.
The Elis’ first half saw them control the speed of play and force Cornell to defend as a team. Yale passed the ball with fluidity through the midfield and rarely allowed a Big Red attack to come to fruition. The Big Red had just three shots and only one corner kick in the frame.
With a seemingly safe lead entering the second half, the Elis were not expecting what would happen just 12 minutes into the period.
“I think if anything, we might have been a little bit too confident,” Hackbarth said. “We let them get back into the game.”
The Big Red turned their play around and kept the Bulldogs on their heels to start the second half. The Elis have struggled at times this season in the opening and closing minutes of each half, and Cornell exploited that weakness when it notched a pair of goals in quick succession to even the score and deflate Yale’s sideline and fans.
The visiting team’s Matt Bouraee received a pass from the right on a breakaway run and thumped a half-volley into the left corner of Travis Chulick’s ’10 net. Shortly following, the Big Red scored on a free kick of their own to tie the game at two.
All seemed lost for the Bulldogs when Chase Aaronson gave Cornell a 3-2 lead as he chipped another half-volley over Chulick’s head with just 18 minutes to play after another successful through ball.
“We’ve had some really tough results. We didn’t want to be in that position again — losing a close game that slipped through our fingers,” Hackbarth said. “We had enough of it. We just wanted to get it back and win it, and we really came together and worked our butts off for the last couple minutes.”
The Bulldogs responded with a renewed urgency as they once again took control of the game.
A contested call inside the Cornell penalty box put the crowd and the bench in an uproar over a perceived Big Red hand ball, one that would have given the Elis a penalty kick and an opportunity to tie the game.
“I just remember with five minutes left, Andy Shorten [’12] turns to everyone and says ‘This better be the best five minutes of soccer you guys ever play,’” captain and defender Jordan Raybould ’10 said. “I don’t know if it was the best five minutes, but it was some of the most effective five minutes of soccer.”
The Bulldogs tied things up with just under four minutes left, once again on a set piece. Defender Milan Tica ’13 bent a ball over the Cornell back line to find midfielder Shorten’s head and tie the game at three, turning the momentum in Yale’s favor.
As the clock counted down the game’s final minutes, the large crowd on both sides grew antsy. Over the past two years, the Bulldogs have endured nine overtime games and five 110-minute matches that resulted in ties. Tompkins said that in previous years the team might not have won a game like Saturday’s.
But, in a near replica of the last goal, Tica took another free kick outside the penalty box from the left side of the field. Most of the Yale team was on the 18-yard line and was left largely unmarked by the Big Red. Midfielder Scott Armbrust ’13, the team’s leading scorer, headed the ball toward the net. It hit the crossbar and bounced off the line, and the Big Red almost cleared it away from the goal. But Dennen’s rebound header made sure the score read Yale 4, Cornell 3 by the time the clock hit 13 seconds.
The goal was the second of Dennen’s career, with the first coming last year with just four seconds to go in the Bulldogs’ 3-0 victory over Cornell. Oddly, Dennen’s first goal of the season came in his first game on the back line.
“I challenged the guys the day before to step forward and help us win games,” Tompkins said. “All those guys that scored the goals really executed well in key moments when we needed them.”
As the crowd erupted, the Bulldogs came streaking off the field to celebrate the game-winning goal with the players on the sidelines. It was only a matter of seconds before a confident Cornell squad would get sent back to Ithaca, N.Y. with its first conference loss, and the Elis would officially record their first Ivy League victory of the year.
“It was emotionally taxing to play a game like that. The highs and lows were more of a roller coaster than any other game,” Raybould said. “You didn’t know who was going to win until the final whistle. I’m happy it’s over, and I’m happy we won.”