The Yale women’s soccer team launched its fall season with a loss against Arkansas, a dominant Southeastern Conference team.
Last Friday, the Bulldogs (0–1 Ivy) kicked off their season opener with the Razorbacks (3–1–0 SEC). The game was the first time that the Elis saw action from a team in the competitive SEC. Arkansas’s previous experiences in the NCAA final tournaments showed as they won against Yale in a 4–1 match.
“The team played well against Arkansas,” defender and captain Ally Grossman ’16 said. “They are an extremely athletic team and a top-level program. We held our own against them. We played our game, possessed the ball and made them work for the win.”
The Elis debuted this season after finishing third in the Ivy League last year — the highest position Yale has held in the conference since its 2011 season of the same ranking.
With seven veteran seniors and a freshman class ranked 12th by TopSoccerDrawer.com, the Yale women’s soccer team has promise for the 2015 season. Thirty Bulldogs comprise the squad, an increase of five players compared to the 2013 season.
“Having such a large roster is really an asset,” midfielder Shannon Conneely ’16 said. “It allows us to play eleven verses eleven and helps us keep numbers up even with injuries. We also have a very deep bench this year. We do not lose any momentum when substitutions are made.”
But those assets were not enough against Arkansas. Forward Ashleigh Ellenwood of Arkansas scored within the first 42 seconds of the game. However, with the high energy provided by the full Bulldog roster, the team jumped right back into the play when midfielder Sofia Griff ’19 scored her first career goal to tie up the game. Grossman assisted Griff on a corner kick 17 minutes into the match.
Throughout the game, Yale had five shots on goal compared to Arkansas’s 17. In corner kicks, the two teams were more even as the Bulldogs earned three kicks to the Razorbacks’ 4.
Ellenwood came back into the picture in the last five minutes of the first half to score the second of three goals she scored in the whole contest. It has been 14 years since an Arkansas player scored a hat trick.
“Arkansas capitalized on the little mistakes we made,” Grossman said.
Like Yale, Arkansas holds a roster of roughly 30 players. However, they held the advantage of experience — nine out of their eleven starters were veteran players. Yale head coach Rudy Meredith began the game by starting only six returning Bulldogs.
Five freshmen — Griff, Michelle Alozie ’19, Fallon Sheridan ’19, Fran Steele ’19 and Keri Cavallo ’19 — all started on the field for the Elis.
“We definitely did not play nearly our best against Arkansas.” Conneely said. “It was a tough loss, but we are a pretty young team and we will bounce back quickly.”
Next weekend Yale will play against Hofstra, who finished 43rd overall in the nation last season according to the NCAA ratings percentage index.
In 2014, the Bulldogs pulled through with a 2–1 win against the Pride.
With some powerful teams in the first few games of the season, such as Arkansas and Hofstra, Meredith appears to be preparing his team for the in-conference Ivy play that comes later on, according to goalkeeper Rachel Ames ’16.
“Coach Rudy expects us to give our full effort every minute of every practice or game,” Ames said. “He knows what the team is capable of and holds us to that standard. He knows that mistakes will happen, but only asks that we fix each one as it comes. Coach Rudy believes that we can win an Ivy title and is doing everything in his power to prepare us for that success.”
The Yale women’s soccer team will compete next in a home game at Reese Stadium this Friday at 7:30 p.m. The event will be televised by the Ivy League Digital Network.