Returning home after five straight road games with its biggest rival on tap, the Yale women’s soccer team could not stack up to Harvard in its conference home opener Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs (3–5–2, 0–2–0 Ivy) were shut out 4–0 by their opponents from Cambridge (4–6–1, 2–0–0) in front of a season-high 684 fans at a chilly Reese Stadium. The loss extended the team’s winless streak against the Crimson to eight games, with the Elis’ last victory in the series coming in September 2007.
“[Harvard] started with high pressure in the beginning of the game,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “They scored three goals very quickly, and it’s really hard to overcome a deficit like that so early.”
Harvard, which came into New Haven riding the momentum of a 2–0 win over Penn, struck early and often against Yale.
The Crimson’s two-time All-Ivy forward Margaret Purce opened the scoring before the first 90 seconds of the game had elapsed, finding the upper-left corner of the net from 12 yards out at the 1:25 mark.
Fewer than two minutes later, a Yale handball inside the box gifted Harvard with a penalty-kick opportunity. Although Yale goalkeeper Rachel Ames ’16 was able to stop both the initial penalty and a rebound attempt, the senior keeper failed to prevent Bailey Gary from finishing for Harvard’s second goal of the game in the fourth minute.
“I had an idea of where [Purce] was going to shoot the penalty kick, which allowed me to make the save. After that, I didn’t even think, but let adrenaline and instinct take over to save the rebound,” Ames said. “It was extremely heartbreaking to have the third shot go in, especially since I worked so hard to make the first two saves.”
Purce added to the score sheet at the 5:11 mark, when she again beat Ames in the top left corner. She completed her first career hat trick in the 51st minute, pushing the Harvard advantage to 4–0.
Yale’s closest chance at scoring came midway through the second half, when the Bulldogs were awarded a penalty shot of their own. However, the 65th-minute effort of Fran Steele ’19 was thwarted by Harvard goalkeeper Lizzie Durack, and Yale never managed another shot on goal.
Despite the scoreline, defender Ally Grossman ’16 noted that the team played nearly even with the two-time defending Ivy League champions for the majority of the contest.
“The goals we gave up were purely just little breakdowns that were a result of not being focused and not being tough enough,” Grossman said. “Once we changed our mentality, we did a much better job at handling them defensively.”
While the Elis have now conceded seven goals in their first two Ancient Eight matchups, the team’s offense has also seen its share of struggles. After starting the season with eight straight games of at least one goal, the goalless game against Harvard followed a 3–0 defeat at the hands of Princeton. Over those two Ivy League games, the team has allowed 19 shots on goal while only attempting five.
Meredith discussed the need for both units to improve in conjunction with one another heading into the Bulldogs’ upcoming weekend matchup against Dartmouth.
“Right now, we need to work on offense and defense working together to help each other,” Meredith said. “We have a good team, and we’re overdue for a break … We need to start off the games a little bit better, because we’ve been chasing in the games where we give up early goals.”
That task will not be easy next weekend, when the highest-scoring team in the Ivy League comes to town. The Big Green (7–2–2, 0–1–1), at 29 goals scored this year, has more than double Yale’s total of 14, and is led by the conference’s leading scorer, captain Lucielle Kozlov.
But Ames said she thinks she and her teammates are up to the challenge.
“I think the team is ready for the Dartmouth game in order to prove how good of a team we are,” Ames said. “The past two results are not indicative of our skill or the talent we possess, and no one outside of the program believes in us. We just want to step on the field against Dartmouth and prove people wrong.”
With tonight’s scheduled tilt versus Hampton cancelled due to potential travel concerns from Hurricane Joaquin, the Elis will resume action at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Reese Stadium against Dartmouth.
André Monteiro contributed reporting.