There is a certain amount of superstition that comes with being an athlete at any level. Some people wear a particular item, others eat certain food before a game and a few have special pregame rituals. For Yale women’s soccer goalkeeper Elise Wilcox ’15, doing a handshake with her close teammate and fellow goalkeeper Rachel Ames ’16 is essential before she even steps on the field for a game.
Wilcox and Ames have been a unit for three years now. For the first five games of the 2014 season, they split time, each player taking one of the halves. But after taking over the full-time job at the outset of Ivy League play, Wilcox has shined, allowing just one goal in her past 372 minutes of action.
“I cannot put into words how proud I am of how well [Wilcox] has been playing recently,” Ames said. “She has been working extremely hard since this summer to be the best goalkeeper she can be for her team, and that’s exactly what she has been.”
According to Wilcox, she and Ames have been working together and have challenged each other to get better. Wilcox added that, although she is older, she views Ames as a peer.
Wilcox is the last resort to keep other teams from scoring, and she has proven time and again that she deserves to be in the starting spot. She has the best goals-against average in the Ivy League at 0.43 per game. She also has the highest save percentage at .930, with only three goals allowed, and the highest number of saves with 40 in nine games.
“Having great stats has a lot to do with how solid our defense has been playing,” Wilcox said. “The defense has been really good about stepping to the ball and preventing shots from close in so that I’m able to make the save. Also, my teammates have been incredibly supportive which helps me play confidently.”
The Bulldogs have struggled recently with scoring goals, and they have yet to score in an Ivy game. But the entire defense has kept them alive, notching two ties against Dartmouth and Ivy leader Harvard.
Many players commented that Wilcox’s showings in both of those games were the fuel the team needed to keep their opponents from taking the lead.
“Elise has been having a really solid season, and she’s kept us in a lot of games, especially during our recent struggle to score goals,” defender Colleen McCormack ’17 said. “We’re lucky she’s really stepped up and made a lot of big saves.”
In the game against the Crimson, Wilcox made one save in regulation and three saves in overtime, one of which occurred with only two minutes left in the game. Against the Big Green, Wilcox’s endurance was tested as the Dartmouth offense took ten shots on goal in 110 minutes, but the senior goalie stopped every attempt.
In addition to defensive skills, Wilcox has also displayed leadership for the Bulldogs. Ames said that Wilcox knows exactly when to find her voice on the field and how to encourage her teammates from her spot in the goal.
While her teammates encourage her on the field, Wilcox said that her parents are her biggest inspiration off the field. She added that the relationship has solidified her strength as a leader on the Yale team.
“They instilled in me the work ethic and confidence that got me this far,” Wilcox said. “They watch every game and I know there’s always a ‘good job’ text waiting for me when I get back to the locker room. I’m lucky to have such amazing role models in my life.”
With only four conference games left in the season for the Bulldogs, the quest for the Ivy League title has become a difficult task for the team. Yale is currently five points behind leaders Harvard and Princeton, and the team must win out to effectively have a chance at the crown.
The team heads to Cornell this weekend before its final three home games of the season as well as an away game against Brown. Though it is her final season, Wilcox said she has not yet felt the emotions hitting her yet, but she does know finishing strong is the way she wants to go out.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was five so it’s a little hard to imagine life without a practice to go to or a game to prepare for,” Wilcox said. “As each game passes it just makes me more motivated to finish strong so the other seniors and I can have a great final season to look back on.”
The Bulldogs head to Cornell on Saturday to take on the Big Red. Play is slated to begin at 1 p.m.