The men’s soccer team will travel to Princeton tomorrow for its last game of the season.
Princeton (5–9–2, 1–4–1 Ivy) struggled out of the gate this year, winning only two of its first 10 games. But as the Ivy League games have gotten underway, the Tigers have shown some of their competitiveness, tying Cornell and losing by one goal to Brown in overtime.
Yale (7–7–2, 3–3 Ivy) dropped out of the race for the championship after its own overtime loss to Brown last weekend. It was a deflating moment for the players, all of whom said that winning the Ivy League title was their single most important goal for the season.
“If we don’t win the Ivy League, our season will be a failure,” goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13 had said prior to the loss against Brown.
But none of the players interviewed after the loss to Brown felt the season was over.
“We want to end the season on a high note,” defender Milan Tica ’13 said. “If we beat Princeton, we will finish … with a winning season, and that’s the only thing on our minds right now.”
Thalman pointed out that it would be the first winning season for a Yale team in five years. The 2005 squad went 5–1–1 in Ivy League play, earning a share of the title with Dartmouth and Brown. This year the title is again up in the air going into the final game of the season. Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia or Cornell could be the champion at the end of Saturday and earn the league’s automatic NCAA bid. All four teams play each other this Saturday: Dartmouth at Brown and Columbia at Cornell.
Teams on the outside looking in, like Princeton and Yale, have to find their own source of motivation.
Charlie Neil ’12 said the team just wanted to finish strong. “We still have a lot to play for. We’re a very proud group; we want to give Princeton a good game,” Neil said.
Princeton enters the game after a tough loss at Penn, where the Tigers gave up an early lead to the struggling Quakers before dropping behind in the second half. This Saturday will be their Senior Day, as they honor players like forward Antoine Hoppenot, tied at the top of the Tiger’s scoring column with 14 points. He has scored four goals and a team-best six assists.
The Tigers are unbeaten in the last three meetings between the teams, although the Bulldogs have won three of the last four meetings in New Jersey.
Last year the teams met for the last game of the season, Yale looking for its second Ivy win, and Princeton for its seventh. The Tigers won 2–1, earning the Ivy Title and the automatic NCAA bid. That team converted off a Yale own-goal and outshot the Elis 14–3. Last week the Bulldogs were outshot 17–0.
But this year’s team has made significant strides from last season’s squad. The Bulldogs have more than twice as many games as they did last year, both in Ivy League and nonconference play. And until last week, they were in the hunt for a championship.
“This has definitely been my most fun year,” Neil said, who was honored last week on Yale’s Senior Day. “I love all the guys, I couldn’t have asked for a better senior season.”
Kickoff is this Saturday at Princeton at 3 p.m.