As the halfway point of the season approaches, the Yale women’s soccer team will face its biggest challenge yet, taking on its first Ivy League opponent, the Princeton Tigers, on Saturday.
In the past five years, the Elis have won two of the five match ups against the Tigers, including a 3–2 overtime victory last year. Princeton posted stellar 7–0 conference season two years ago and have placed in the middle or towards the top of the pack in the Ivy League over the last five years.
“Princeton will be a tough game, like every Ivy opponent,” goalkeeper Rachel Ames ’16 said. “Currently there are no Ivy rankings because we haven’t started Ivy play, but they are normally toward the top of the group. I expect them to show up with the same heart, intensity and drive that we will.”
Last season, Yale went 2-4-1 in the Ivy League and finished fifth. Princeton went 1–5–1 and finished seventh. As conference games determine the Ivy League champion, every game is crucial for the Elis. Playing Princeton will set the tone for the rest of the conference games.
The Bulldogs are coming off of a tough schedule of five games in nine days. Those five games resulted in two losses, the only defeats for the Elis so far this season. The set of games also included a huge 2–1 win over Hofstra last Friday, which according to players has kept the squad in good spirits heading into the heightened emotions of the first Ivy League game.
“There are a lot more emotions in an Ivy League game than non-conference games. We’re all pretty evenly matched so the games are always exciting,” forward Melissa Gavin ’15 said.
Ames added that Ivy League games heighten the contests’ intensity, as the games are crucial to the team’s success at the end of the season.
This season has been the best start for the Elis in over eight years, and a large part of their success has come from improved skill and new coaches, as well as a close-knit group dynamic. Many of the players have commented on how well the squad has meshed this year, especially with such a large class of freshmen. Players said that practices will not change significantly heading into Ivy League play, although the team will fine tune its approach to different opponents.
“Practice will change in the sense that we will be preparing for Princeton’s specific style of play. Each team we encounter plays differently and has different strengths that we need to get accustomed to before facing them,” Ames said.
The Bulldogs will face off against Princeton on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in Reese Stadium.