After opening the season with two tough tests against the class of the Ivy League, the Yale women’s soccer team seeks to match its one-win total in conference play from last year against cellar-dwelling Dartmouth this weekend.
The Elis (4–4–3, 0–1–1 Ivy) fought hard in their first two matches against pre-season favorites, Harvard and Princeton, but emerged with a solitary point, a scant reward for their toils. To continue to build on their strong start to the season and compete in the league’s upper echelon, the Bulldogs need to start racking up three points weekly, starting against the Big Green (6–4–0, 0–2–0).
“We are excited to take on Dartmouth this weekend,” midfielder Keri Cavallo ’19 said. “It’s a chance for us to take out our frustrations from the loss against Harvard. Each team is different every year, so we will be approaching the game with confidence and respect for the other team.”
Yale’s lone Ivy League victory a year ago came against Dartmouth, a 1–0 victory powered by an early second-half goal from Cavallo. In last season’s win, the Elis scored first, created chances and played lockdown defense, a combination the Bulldogs will aim to replicate with even more success as a team that has grown in leaps and bounds in the intervening year.
The veteran Dartmouth backline comes into the match having conceded only six goals in their 10 games this season, three coming in their two Ivy defeats to Brown and Princeton. Yet, when their defense plays well, they are nearly impenetrable — five of Dartmouth’s six victories have been in shutouts. Big Green goalie Casey Cousineau ranks second in the conference with 41 saves, so Bulldog forwards Aerial Chavarin ’20 and Michelle Alozie ’19 will need to be at the top of their games.
“Dartmouth hasn’t proven to have the same offensive edge as teams like Harvard and Princeton,” goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said. “I think we will approach the game in a more offensive manner and work hard to get numbers up and capitalize on our opportunities … It would be great to see if we can find the back of the net more than once this weekend.”
The Big Green’s weakness comes in their punchless attack, which has been blanked by both Brown and Princeton, as well as their two best non-conference opponents, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. Their leading scorer is freshman forward, Charlotte Esty, who has notched three goals. Though she poses a threat, she has not quite reached the superstar level of Princeton’s Tyler Lussi or Harvard’s Margaret Purce, the 2015 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year 2015 and 2013 Ivy Player of the Year, respectively.
The Bulldog backline acquitted itself very well against those two difficult tests and should face an easier time against Dartmouth. The main key will be avoiding momentary lapses, especially on set pieces, that have proven to be the Elis’ Achilles heel so far this season.
“[We’ll] be spending a majority of [Thursday’s] practice working to defend set pieces more successfully,” Fagel said. “[But] defending set pieces is something that we can work on and hopefully won’t be too hard to improve.”
The Eli defense will need to remain alert despite Dartmouth’s less aggressive manner of play. Though the Big Green has only scored 11 goals this season, eight of those goals have come after halftime. Just one week removed from blowing a lead against Harvard in the final minutes, the Bulldogs must not fall victim to late-game comebacks again.
Key to that objective is remaining disciplined. Over the week, several Elis observed that they became too defensive against the Crimson and stopped trying to get more goals.
“We discussed how we became a little too frantic and panicked,” captain Colleen McCormack ’17 said. “Now, we’re stressing playing our game and not letting the score affect [our style of play]. Continuing to play with that composure for the entire 90 minutes [will be critical].”
When the Elis play to their potential, they are as formidable a team as any in the Ivy League. Though they are coming off of a difficult September that resulted in a 1–3–3 stretch, this is still fundamentally the same team that outscored its opponents a combined 10–1 over its three games in August. If that team shows up in Hanover on Saturday, then Yale fans will be in for a treat.
That said, with just five games remaining on the schedule, all against conference opponents, this weekend’s matchup with Dartmouth represents a crossroads for the Bulldogs’ season. Standing sixth in the Ancient Eight, Yale needs a win badly to put their season back on the right track. All of the players are keenly aware of where they stand and have started to consider the remaining games “must-wins.”
“We’re definitely talking about winning out the rest of the season” McCormack said. “That’s totally within our ability. We talk about controlling the things we can control. We can’t control what Harvard and Princeton do anymore, but we can control the games we have left.”
With last week’s loss to Harvard, the Bulldogs have now started their season 0–2–0 in road games. The last time Yale endured such a start was in 2011, when they dropped their first two road games to Rutgers and St. John’s.