The Yale men’s soccer team will take on the University of New Hampshire on Saturday for the first time in the program’s centurylong history. The Bulldogs will travel nearly 200 miles for their final tune-up before they embark on the 2016 Ivy League season.
Coming off of their second consecutive loss, the Elis (1–2–1, 0–0 Ivy) will look to right the ship and smooth out any issues before taking on the Wildcats (7–1-0, 0–0 American East).
Before Yale’s fifth nonconference game, midfielder Josh Totte ’18 emphasized the necessity for the team to return to the level of play achieved in its tie against Michigan and victory over Sacred Heart at the start of the season.
“It’s important for us to go into the Ivy season with momentum,” Totte said. “[We need] to build off of our first two results and get back into form.”
But the Wildcats will not simply roll over. The team has lost just one game this year, and has not conceded a goal in its last three games.
The lack of goals allowed over the course of those three games has not come from stout defensive play, but rather from strong goaltending. In New Hampshire’s 3-0 win over Colgate, goalie Andrew Pesci made an astonishing 12 saves. In the two shutouts that followed, Pesci made seven more stops.
This immaculate goalkeeping play is a significant improvement from the team’s first five games in which Pesci made just nine saves and gave up seven goals.
The result of Saturday’s game may hinge on which version of Pesci the Elis face. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have not scored since a Sept. 10 win over Sacred Heart and have been shutout in the last two games.
Yale will also have to handle New Hampshire’s prolific offense. The Wildcats currently rank ninth in the nation with 2.50 goals per game. Specifically, Yale’s defense will have to keep its eye on New Hampshire’s striker Chris Arling, whose seven goals in the team’s eight games leave him tied for sixth in the nation in total goals.
The Elis’ main focus heading into Saturday’s competition will be starting the game off strong. In its last two games, three of the four goals Yale has given up have come in the opening frame.
“We have been struggling at the start of games these last two,” said striker Kyle Kenagy ’19. “If we can start the game like we did at Michigan, we can beat almost anyone. We just need more focus all around.”
Against the Wolverines, the team struck first, then evened the score at two-all in the game’s waning moments.
The upcoming game against New Hampshire will also mark the beginning of three consecutive road weekend in which the Bulldogs will travel hundreds of miles north. After this Saturday, the Elis open their Ivy League season at Harvard, and then, seven days later, travel back to the state of New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth.
The dangerous combination of an opening matchup against New Hampshire, the beginning of Ivy League play and three consecutive away games amounts to a difficult upcoming slate of competition — a fact not lost on the team.
“I think it’s about us not letting the distractions of an away game get to us and just focusing on how we execute our game plan to get the best results we possibly can these next three games,” said midfielder An Le ’19.
Saturday’s match against New Hampshire kicks off at 7 p.m.