With Ivy League play beginning tomorrow against Harvard, the Yale men’s soccer team is looking to redeem itself after a disappointing start to the 2015 season. In their seven non-conference games, the Bulldogs have only won a single decision: the highly anticipated showdown against cross-city foe Quinnipiac.
Saturday’s home contest against rival Harvard (1–4–2, 0–0–0 Ivy) grants Yale (1–6–0, 0–0–0) the opportunity to jump out to a quick start in Ancient Eight play.
“The Ivy League has always been our main focus, and all the training we’ve done since the end of last season has been geared toward getting us ready to play these games,” forward Avery Schwartz ’16 said. “Ivy League soccer is known for being physical and fast-paced, and we’re excited to compete.”
The hiring of new head coach Kylie Stannard brought a new level of intensity to New Haven, along with hopes that his experience would help the Elis rebound from their one-win campaign last year. Joining Yale from the successful Michigan State soccer program, Stannard brought a new focus: transforming the Bulldogs into the hardest working team in the Ivy League.
“He’s pushed all of us beyond our comfort levels to make us better both individually and as a team, and this is going to serve us extremely well going into Ivy play,” Schwartz said.
Despite the lackluster results thus far, players remain optimistic, fully aware that all seven Ivy contests still await them. According to defender Ollie Iselin ’18, the team recognizes where improvements can be made heading into conference play, specifically referencing the Bulldogs’ inability to frequently put themselves into scoring positions.
Excluding the three goals scored in Yale’s win over Quinnipiac, the offense has only mustered three goals in its six losses this season.
On the opposing side, Harvard’s offense has been even more anemic than Yale’s, having only scored five goals all season long — though the Crimson’s non-conference schedule has featured two draws against nationally ranked programs. Leading the offensive attack will be a pair of senior forwards, Oliver White and Jake Freeman, who are responsible for four of the five goals scored this season.
While upperclassmen will head the Crimson, who finished third in the conference a year ago, Yale has integrated the freshman class since the start of the season. Of the 11 newcomers, nine have seen playing time and three have become regular starters for Stannard’s squad.
One newcomer, forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 enters Ivy play having scored two goals for the Bulldogs, but has missed the past three contests due to a sprained MCL suffered on Sept. 13. However, the Orland Park, Illinois native is expected to return to the pitch against the Crimson, still tied for third in the Ivy League for goals scored.
“Right now the team is really hungry going into the Harvard game,” Kenagy said. “We can’t wait to start our Ivy season on the right foot.”
Kenagy and his fellow freshmen have provided a welcome layer of depth in non-conference play, but will certainly face a new type of test this weekend when they receive their first taste of Ivy competition.
And since the Harvard-Yale rivalry is one of the most anticipated meetings of the season for any sport, tensions will be running high across both schools’ rosters.
“The most challenging thing when playing Harvard is controlling your emotion,” Iselin said. “It is obviously an important game, and generally the team that reacts the best to the pressure of the game will come out on top.”
The Bulldogs will play at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Reese Stadium.