While most freshmen were arriving at Yale, unpacking their clothes and staring wide-eyed at their freshman counselors, Aerial Chavarin ’20 was nowhere to be found on campus. It is more likely that her teammates on the women’s soccer team were the ones gaping at her, as she netted the game-winning goal with less than two minutes to play in her debut against Bryant on August 26.
Chavarin’s performance was no fluke, as the freshman forward has tallied three more goals — enough to lead the team in that category — and notched three assists, which ties two other Bulldogs for the team best. In addition to the natural speed and playmaking abilities of the Oakland native, head coach Rudy Meredith said Chavarin’s competitive nature and work ethic have impressed him just seven games into her career.
“She has nice instincts around the goal, and she’s just a fighter,” Meredith said. “She doesn’t stop, she doesn’t give up and she’s always involved when the ball’s in front of the goal, looking to pick up on anything.”
Chavarin, who played for the Youth U.S. National team and says she wants to play in the Olympics, had no trouble acclimating herself to the college game, scoring at least two points in each of her first three games — all of which the Bulldogs won.
Although the team is now mired in a four-game winless streak, Chavarin has continued to turn heads with her offensive firepower. Both captain and defender Colleen McCormack ’17 and defender Carlin Hudson ’18 singled out the 5-foot-10 forward’s speed as her main weapon for scoring goals.
“It’s those long legs,” McCormack said. “She can get to balls no one else can, and it totally surprises defenders.”
Chavarin was able to show off that speed right from the get-go at Yale, as she scored the game-winning goal against Bryant by racing past a defender to receive a long pass from McCormack and easily put the ball past the goalkeeper.
The freshman credited her teammates for allowing her to contribute early on, saying older players have established an environment of “intensity and competitiveness” that is “easier to thrive in.” Meredith said the camaraderie forged during preseason practices helped tremendously with the transition Chavarin and her fellow freshmen made as they entered college.
“Everyone has everyone’s back, and that really helps with the transition — you have an instant 28 friends without having to do anything,” Meredith said.
Given Chavarin’s natural talent and competitiveness, perhaps it is unsurprising that soccer is not the only sport at which she excels. In fact, she stopped playing soccer for Bishop O’Dowd High School her junior year in favor of basketball, “because I missed it so much,” she said.
Chavarin averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs throughout her basketball career, and as a junior led her high school team to the state championship.
“She’s in my ear about trying to play basketball [at Yale],” Meredith said. “I told her she would have to beat me one-on-one to get on the basketball team, and she said, ‘Well, you better put me on the team because I’m going to beat you.’ She’s a competitor. I love that about her.”
Chavarin was considering playing at the University of Colorado, Santa Clara and Stanford — whose women’s soccer program is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation — until her unofficial visit to Yale.
She said as soon as she arrived on Yale’s campus, her decision became much easier.
“It sounds cliche, but I knew this was the school for me,” Chavarin said.
Following a tie against Colgate on Friday and a loss at Vermont on Sunday, the Bulldogs look to stem their recent slide Thursday against Hartford, their penultimate nonleague opponent. Chavarin’s offensive prowess will figure crucially as the season progresses, as a strong attack will be crucial in the team’s goal of winning the Ivy League championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament.
For Chavarin, that team success is of the utmost importance.
“I want to win,” Chavarin said. “I work hard 100 percent of the time and do whatever it takes to win.”