On Saturday in New Jersey, the Yale men’s soccer team found itself in a precarious position, opposing the Ivy League’s most prolific offense — a squad that had scored 13 goals in its past five games.
Princeton (10–5–2, 3–3–1 Ivy) dealt Yale (1–14–2, 0–5–2) — which scored 13 goals all season long — a 3–0 defeat to close the Bulldogs’ season.
“[Princeton] came out with a lot of desire to win on their senior night. They pressed us pretty high and we had a hard time tracking their runs from the back,” midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19 said. “In the second half, we came out with a lot more heart and the game was more even. It was good to end at least on a good note where we kept ourselves in the game mentally even though the scoreline was uneven.”
In the process, Yale saw the largest number of losses in a single season in the program’s history, eclipsing last year’s total by one to finish with 14 losses for the season. The defeat also cemented an eighth-place finish in the conference for the Elis.
While the majority of league games were closely contested — Yale tied two Ivy opponents and three of five losses were by a single goal — the Bulldogs were outpaced and outshot 32–9 by Princeton’s powerful offense, and suffered its largest conference loss of the season.
Princeton controlled the action from the outset. Star senior forward Thomas Sanner, who leads the league in goals, points and shots, has scored the same number of goals on his own this season as the entire Yale team combined. The Bulldog back line struggled to contain this high-powered Tiger onslaught which included a first-half stretch in which the Tigers created 16 unanswered chances.
But despite the barrage of opportunities, the Tigers failed to get onto the scoreboard until senior midfielder Jack Hilger was brought down in the box 20 minutes into the game. Hilger fell to the ground after defender Cameron Riach’s ’19 foot caught on his own, though Yale suspected the midfielder fell a bit too easily.
“He definitely was stopped from a goal-scoring opportunity, but he also did sell it pretty well. Definitely some theatrics,” forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 said.
Another senior midfielder, John Kendall, stepped up and easily struck the penalty home to put Princeton ahead. Although goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19 — filling in for Ryan Simpson ’17, who is recovering from a concussion — guessed the direction of the penalty kick correctly, he was unable to bat the ball away.
The penalty kick jumpstarted the Princeton attack. Not three minutes later, Sanner had an excellent chance when he trapped a high ball with his chest, but shot just inches wide of the net. He made up for it seconds later when, off a corner kick, he rushed into the box, got free from his markers and headed the ball in for the Tigers’ second score of the game.
Princeton’s third goal came less than a minute before the end of the first half, when Sanner passed the ball into the box, leaving it for senior midfielder Andrew Doar to strike it into the net.
“[The Princeton offense] was unbelievable in the midfield. They would play one-two balls and at some times, it was almost impossible to defend and they played very fast all the time,” Kenagy said. “I don’t think we’ve seen too much of that this year and they have a lot of chemistry in their offense.”
During the first half, the Bulldogs’ only three chances came off of set pieces, but none threatened to find the back of the net.
Princeton’s dominance continued into the second half, but Yale responded better to the Tigers’ pace of play. Not two minutes in, Schipper made two excellent back-to-back saves to prevent the Tigers from extending their lead. Riach had perhaps Yale’s best chance of the game in the 67th minute when, a meter outside the six-yard box, he had only the Tiger goalkeeper to beat, but his light shot went high.
“[In the second half,] we switched systems and played in a 3–5–2 to just go for it a bit more and to generate our own offense instead of just absorbing pressure, which I think worked because we created more,” midfielder Nicky Downs ’19 said.
This season marks the first time in school history that Yale has finished with consecutive one-win seasons.