On the heels of three straight losses, the Yale men’s soccer team opens its Ivy League season this Saturday against its oldest rival: Harvard.
Though they started off the season hot, the Bulldogs have gone ice cold since. Now, they hope they can regain their early form in their first Ancient Eight clash.
After finishing last year with only a single win, Yale (1–4–1, 0–0–0 Ivy) began this season on the opposite note. The team tied Michigan in its first game and bested Sacred Heart a game later. In Saturday’s contest, the Elis look to garner their second win of the season against the Crimson (4–3–1, 0–0–0).
“Ivy League games always have an extra edge and a little more intensity,” said midfielder Nicky Downs ’19. “Given the parity in the league, anyone can win any game. Our season really comes down to these games. If we put together a strong string of performances, we have the pieces to compete for the top spot in this league, I think, which is really exciting.”
A win on Saturday would bring many firsts for the majority of the team. In its past two seasons, the men’s soccer team has neither beaten Harvard nor won an Ivy League game. Thus, for the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and head coach Kylie Stannard — who came to Yale last year — a win against Harvard would not only be their first triumph over their biggest rival, but it would also represent their first win over an Ancient Eight opponent.
For forward Kyle Kenagy ’19, the meaning of defeating Harvard can hardly be overestimated.
“Oh man, that would be the highlight of our season no matter what,” Kenagy said. “Nothing is better than beating a long-standing rival.”
But a win against Harvard would signify more than just a triumph over an adversary. After two seasons of winless Ivy League play, a tally in the win column would represent forward progress for a team that has struggled these past two years.
Moreover, a conference win would be a step toward their ultimate goal: an Ivy League title.
According to midfielder An Le ’19, the journey to winning that title begins this Saturday.
“It’d be fantastic for us to start our Ivy League campaign with a win because ultimately, the Ivy League games are what matter the most,” Le said. “Especially against Harvard, a win would give us a great start towards achieving our Ivy League goals while propelling us forward with extra confidence and momentum to preform the rest of the season.”
But that first step forward will not be easy. Last season, Harvard finished second in the Ivies with a 5–2 record, and this year, the Crimson has already won four games, including victories over Villanova (5–3–1, 1–1–0 Big East) and Washington (6–2–0, 0–0–0 PAC 12).
The Crimson is led by forward Jake Freeman and midfielder Matthew Glass, who have scored three goals each this season, which totals more than the entire Yale team’s goal total.
In the last three seasons, Harvard has gone 16–5–2 in its 23 home games. On the other hand, the Elis have not won an away game since Oct. 29, 2013.
However, the tough competition will not end with Harvard. The following weekend, the Bulldogs will face two-time defending Ivy League Champion Dartmouth (1–2–4, 0–0–0 Ivy) in Yale’s third consecutive away game. Yet a winless Cornell, whom the Elis face in mid-October, presents an opportunity to move up from the bottom of the league, where Yale has found itself for the past two seasons.
Yale kicks off against the Crimson at 4 p.m. on Saturday.