After a season of ups and downs, the men’s soccer team will say goodbye to four seniors on Saturday as the squad concludes its season at home against Princeton.
When the Bulldogs (4–7–5, 1–2–3 Ivy) take the field at Reese Stadium to face the Tigers (3–1–2, 7–6–2 Ivy), it will be the last time that defender Andy Hackbarth ’13, midfielder Frank Shaw ’13, defender Milan Tica ’13 and captain and goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13 do so as members of the Yale squad.
“It’s definitely a game that has a little bit more weight than those in the past just due to the nature of it for our seniors,” Thalman said. “We’ve got a great group of guys, it’s a very close knit team, so everyone’s going to be out there playing for each other.”
All four seniors significantly contributed to the men’s soccer program and brought different strengths to the team over the course of their Yale careers, defender Nick Alers ’13 said. He described Thalman as a leader and one of the best goalkeepers in the country, Tica as completing his best season, Shaw as an unsung hero and Hackbarth as one of the squad’s hardest workers.
Alers added that the team’s current three-game lossless streak has been in part motivated by a desire to send off the senior class with a solid record, although they have already been eliminated from Ivy League Championship contention.
“We’ve definitely been playing for them, and we’ll especially play for them this Saturday,” Alers said.
In order to continue the streak, the Bulldogs will have to compete with a Princeton squad coming off its widest conference victory of the season, a 3–0 drubbing of Penn last Saturday.
The Tigers utilize a style of play unique to the Ivy League, Alers said. Small, nimble players comprise much of the team, leading it to focus on retaining possession, passing and keeping the ball on the ground. Thalman said that while the Bulldogs will not have to face forward Antoine Hoppenot, Princeton’s former premier playmaker who joined the MLS after last year’s season, the Elis will still have to contend with a dangerous offense and strong backline.
Thalman also pointed to last year’s contest between the teams and the Bulldogs’ last two matches as warnings for this Saturday’s match. While Yale won last year’s contest 2–1, the Elis went down a goal in the seventh minute.
“We’ve made it harder on ourselves having to come back from a 1–0 deficit early on in the game,” Thalman said. “With all the emotions tied up in this game, we should be able to come out strong.”
While the Bulldogs must be wary of an early strike, Alers said that the team has become more sure of its identity as the season comes to a close. After opening its Ivy slate with a tie and two defeats, the Bulldogs have recorded a victory and two ties over its last three conference games, including a draw against No. 11 Brown last weekend.
The team is unsure about whether Hackbarth will be able to play against Princeton due to an injury suffered last week.
The game will kick off on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Reese Stadium.