The women’s soccer team kickstarts its season this weekend with away games at Hartford on Friday and Stony Brook on Sunday.

The Bulldogs possess a squad at full strength and are boosted by the return of goalkeeper Adele Jackson-Gibson ’13 from injury.

“We’ve focused a lot on defence in pre-season,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We conceded several goals last season in the later stages of games, and we hope to improve on that.”

Last season the Elis finished with a 9-5-3 overall record and 4-2-1 conference record. In order to improve on that, Yale will be relying on Kristen Forster ’13 and captain Jenny Butwin ’13 to control the game from midfield, while 2011 Ivy Rookie of the Year Melissa Gavin ’15 is a vital cog in Yale’s offense.

Friday’s opponents, the Hawks, have already got their season underway, playing out a 1-1 draw against Fairleigh Dickinson, followed by a 3-2 victory over Old Dominion. Freshman forward Elise Galipo has been outstanding for the Hawks so far, with a goal and two assists to her name in just two games. With four winning seasons in the last five years, the Hawks will be formidable opposition, in large part due to their head coach, John Natale, who was a member of the coaching staff for the U.S.A. women’s soccer team at the 2012 Olympics in London.

In contrast, Stony Brook has had a mixed start to its season, having lost and drawn its first and second match respectively, but the Seawolves are now on a two game winning streak. Last week’s 3-0 win over Big East rival St. John’s was particularly impressive, with America East Player of the Week Caitlin Pfeiffer firing on all cylinders. Yale’s last game against Stony Brook in 2009 ended in a 2–1 loss for the Elis, with the winner determined by a goal deep into extra time.

Heading into this weekend, the Bulldogs remain upbeat. Jackson-Gibson said that the the team this year has a strong freshman class and good chemistry and will go into the weekend looking for nothing less than two wins.

Meredith added that two shutouts would be optimal, and spectators should expect close games.

The Elis will face Hartford away at 7 p.m. on Friday night. They will then travel to Stony Brook for a 2 p.m. game on Sunday.

Correction: Sept. 3, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the date of the women’s soccer team’s game against Stony Brook, and misquoted Adele Jackson-Gibson ’13.