Just one month after they first reported to campus for preseason training on Aug. 16, forward Michelle Alozie ’19 and midfielder Sofia Griff ’19 are already making a major impact on the Yale women’s soccer team.
The Bulldogs have played six games since the start of the season, in which they have racked up 37 total points, including both goals and assists. Alozie and Griff have contributed 22 of those points and have energized the team’s offensive attack with their proficient play.
“I have never had two players have this many points this early in the season,” said head coach Rudy Meredith. “The 2005 season may have been the last time that a player may have even come close to Alozie’s and Griff’s numbers. Especially considering that Alozie and Griff are two freshmen, this is definitely a unique situation.”
In 2005, Meredith coached his players to a 15–4–1 overall record and a 5–1–1 conference record, good enough for an Ivy League championship. In addition, two of the team’s top three scorers — midfielder and forward Crysti Howser ’09 and forward Emma Whitfield ’09 — played all 20 games and totaled 25 and 18 points, respectively. Alozie’s four goals and four assists give her 12 points already on the season, while Griff has 10 points on four goals and two assists.
Alozie and Griff are from completely opposite ends of the country. Alozie hails from Apple Valley, California, whereas Griff is from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
During Alozie’s high school career, she set a school record with seven goals in a single game and 44 for a full season. In addition, she was named an all-league selection.
Her talent does not end on the soccer pitch, however. Her reputation as a speedster — proven when she sprinted down the field and turned a defensive error into a goal against Sacred Heart — dates to her high school career, when she set program marks in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
But it was Alozie’s first career goal against UMass-Amherst that proved most pivotal, as it was the only goal the Elis could muster in a 1–0 victory over the Minutewomen.
“I honestly had the biggest sigh of relief [after scoring that goal],” Alozie said. “I get really frustrated when I don’t score just because it is basically my [sole] purpose as a forward … After I scored my first goal I didn’t even really celebrate, I just hugged teammate Geneva Decker ’17 and said, ‘Finally.’”
While Alozie starred for her high school, Griff made a name for herself on her club team. She was ranked No. 130 on the IMG Academy Top 150, a ranking of the top high school soccer players in the country, after leading the New York Rush Patriots 97 to the National Premier League championship.
“She’s the little engine that could,” Meredith said when asked about Griff. “Sofia has a nose for the goal, so she always finds a way to do something around the goal. She is determined and really focused.”
Despite having to transition from high school to college, both Griff and Alozie have found success from the outset.
Alozie has tallied at least one point in every contest so far, while Griff scored both the team’s first goal of the season against Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas as well as the Elis’ lone score in a 1–0 victory at Villanova last weekend.
“The fact that freshmen have such an impact on our team’s success is an extremely positive thing,” said captain and defender Ally Grossman ’16. “Michelle and Sofia are young, and their impressive performances only prove that anybody on our team can be a contributor and take on a big role.”
In recent weeks, that role has been ably filled by Alozie, who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week in Weeks three and four, while Griff was named to the Ivy League Honor Roll for this week. It is the first time in program history that a Yale player has been given Rookie of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks.
Griff has assisted on one out of Alozie’s four goals, and Alozie has also assisted on three out of four goals Griff has scored.
“Michelle and I have been combining a lot in the attacking half of the field,” said Griff. “She is a very talented player and I love working with her. Every time we play together, we get more used to each other’s body language and the type of plays we like to make. As we get more used to each other, I expect our dynamic to improve a lot.”
Alozie said she thought she and Griff are two completely different players that happen to work too well with one another. She also expects the on-the-field connection to grow between Griff and her as they count down the days to conference play.
The Elis are split 3–3 in their record so far, and there are only two games remaining until the Bulldogs begin conference play with an away game against Princeton.
According to Alozie and Griff, competition is one aspect that drives them to play with more intensity, and build themselves as soccer players.
“My speed trainer from my past club team, Legends FC, would always yell to us ‘Pain is temporary, but pride is forever.’ So, sometimes when Rudy or Todd are telling me to make the 20 yard dash down to the end line halfway through the second half, even though I am physically dead inside, I remember my trainer’s saying,” Alozie said. “I think that this run may kill me now, but it can have an end result of a goal which would definitely be worth it.”
Correction, September 16: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Howser and Whitfield played 25 games together; they played 20 games together. A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated the number of goals Griff has assisted Alozie on and the number of goals Alozie assisted Griff on. They assisted on one and three goals, respectively.