Ken Yanagisawa

Conference play is finally here, as the Bulldogs will clash against the Princeton Tigers for their first in-league game this Saturday.

At the completion of the 2014 season, the Elis (3–3–2, 0–0–0 Ivy) and the Tigers (5–3–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) tied for third place overall in the Ivy League. In the past, the Bulldogs won their games against Princeton from 2005 to 2007; however, the team lost to the Tigers in 2008. The Bulldogs won again against their Princeton foes in 2009, only to drop down to a loss in 2010. In a matchup between the Elis and the Tigers, the games followed in this pattern. Most recently, last season, the Bulldogs fell to Princeton in the last six minutes of the game. For 2015, the team is looking to get that win back in its hands this weekend.

“This game sets the tone for the season,” midfielder Eliza Loring ’16 said. “So I think everyone on the team has a perfect combination of nervousness and excitement. People are ready to rise to the challenge, and I’m sure we’ll have an intense week of practice to get everyone in the right mindset.”

Entering the fifth week of competition for Ivy League women’s soccer, Princeton boasts a strong offensive presence with 158 total shots taken in eight games, making the Tigers the first-ranked team in number of shots. Yale ranks fifth in the league with 93 shots taken.

Despite the fact that the Tigers have outshot the Bulldogs, the two teams are competitive with one another in converting those shots into goals. The Elis have tallied up 14 goals while Princeton has scored 19. However, out of the shots the Tigers have taken, 12 percent of them have gotten past the goalkeeper, whereas Yale has put 15 percent of their shots behind opposing goalkeepers.

“Right now, our strengths are finishing scoring goals, working together and having a deep bench,” midfielder Shannon Conneely ’16 said. “Everyone has stepped up when we have needed them to — freshmen especially, and then people off the bench.”

At Yale, the women’s soccer team practices on their home turf field at Reese Stadium. However, Princeton plays on grass.

According to goalkeeper Rachel Ames ’16, on Tuesday afternoon the Bulldogs traveled to the Hopkins School, a private school not far from Reese, in order to prepare on their grass fields and simulate the conditions that the Elis will face this Saturday on Princeton’s campus.

“We have also been practicing with high intensity and productivity because we all know how big this game is going to be,” defender Brittany Simpson ’19 said. “And we want to be prepared for it.”

As this is the fifth week of the season, not only does this week of practice matter, but everything that the players did to train up until this point contributes to where they are today.

Currently, the Elis are No. 169 according to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Ratings Percentage Index. Yet, as early as its second game of the season, the Yale women’s team battled against No. 34 Hofstra — a game that the Pride barely won in overtime.

After the loss to Hofstra, the Bulldogs came back and went on a three-game win streak until falling to powerhouse Maryland.

“We have definitely gotten a little better each game, so I’m happy we packed so many challenging non-conference games in the beginning of the season,” said Loring.

The Elis settled their following two games with two ties.

Against Stony Brook this past Sunday, the Elis were up by one goal for the whole game until Stony Brook scored with three minutes left on the clock. Both teams remained scoreless for the following two overtime periods.

“One thing that has been tough for us is game management: We play well for 89 minutes and make a momentary mistake in the last minute that allows the other team back in the game.” Conneely said. “Moving forward to Ivies, we are looking to stay focused for the entire game, which should solve both of those problems.”

The Yale women’s soccer team will be playing away against the Tigers this Saturday at 4 p.m.