This weekend, the Yale men’s soccer team will seek to rebound from a rocky start to the season with matches against the University of California, Santa Barbara and Temple University. The Bulldogs play UCSB in this year’s home opener tonight and travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple on Sunday.
A victory against UCSB (1–1–1, 0–0–0 Big West) would be the first of the season for Yale (0–2–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) and would also snap its eight-game winless streak that stretches back to last year’s campaign. Though the team’s two matches a week ago ended in losses to Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson, the team had constructive takeaways and remains optimistic for its upcoming games.
“We created a lot of chances, but we just couldn’t put them away when it mattered,” midfielder Archie Kinnane ’18 said. “Hopefully, eventually, they’ll start turning into actual goals.”
Midfielder Dylan Onderdonk-Snow ’17 stressed that the team’s losses have only served to motivate the Bulldogs. But this weekend’s matches will be no easy task.
The Gauchos, though also winless in their last two games, are two-time defending champions of the Big West Conference’s North Division. Yale last faced UCSB two years ago in a tight match where momentum shifted back and forth throughout the 90 minutes before ultimately ending in a 3–1 Gauchos victory.
While defender Allen Wang ’18 was not on the team in that game, he knows the Gauchos better than most, as he will play against former club teammate Ahinga Selemani in tonight’s game. Wang described Selemani as “dynamic” and added that Yale will “definitely have to watch out for him and the rest of [UCSB’s] potent offense.” To take on the opponent’s possession-based play, Wang emphasized that the team plans to be “disciplined and tough to break down.”
Kinnane, meanwhile, noted that Yale would also seek to right last weekend’s critical errors.
“We had some mental lapses defensively in some crucial areas and that is what led to [the opponents’] goals,” Kinnane said. “We just have to stay sharp for the whole time and make sure we don’t make any silly mistakes and give up goals like we have in the past.”
The home opener also delivers the opportunity for players to translate their preparation to performance in Yale’s Reese Stadium. All players interviewed expressed excitement for tonight’s opener, with Kinnane citing the home fans as making a big difference in the final outcome.
“That’s where we practice, out in the stadium, but it’s pretty much been empty so far, the whole season, and I’m looking forward to having a crowd behind us,” Onderdonk-Snow said.
Following the game, the Bulldogs have one day of rest before heading out on the road again to play Temple (3–0–1, 0–0–0 American). Though last season’s campaign was a dismal one, with Yale finishing in last place in the Ivy League, its lone bright spot came when the Elis pulled out an overtime victory over the Owls.
A win on Sunday’s trip to Philadelphia, however, will be a challenging undertaking. Despite finishing 2–14–2 last year, Temple is currently undefeated in four games this season, including last week’s home opener win against then-No. 25 Penn State.
More than anything, it seems that Yale is still seeking the positive momentum that eluded it last season. As Yale gears up for Ivy League divisional play in the coming weeks, victories against UCSB and Temple could be the crucial impetus needed to carry the team through upcoming rivalry games. With 15 matches left this year, there is still plenty of time to develop, and the Bulldogs have already worked through a few of this season’s most pressing challenges.
“We’ve made a lot of progress from where we were at the beginning of preseason when we were bringing in basically 13 new guys, but there’s still a lot of progress yet to be made as evidenced by our two losses,” Onderdonk-Snow said.
Kickoff against UCSB is at 6 p.m. Sunday’s match against Temple begins at 3 p.m.