For a Yale men’s soccer team that is winless thus far in Ivy League play, there may not be a better opportunity for a conference victory than this weekend’s match against Cornell. In order for the Bulldogs to have any chance of finishing in the top half of the Ancient Eight this season — a feat they have not accomplished since 2011, when they finished tied for fourth with the Big Red — this game certainly seems critical for a struggling Eli team.

Yale (1–5–2, 0–1–1 Ivy) faces off against Cornell (1–9–2, 0–2–0) on Sunday in Ithaca in hopes of winning its first match since Sept. 10. After a promising start to conference play in which the Elis tied with Harvard in a double-overtime thriller, the team proceeded to lose its next two games against Dartmouth and No. 13 University of Connecticut. The Bulldogs are hoping to avenge a 2015 overtime loss to the Big Red and win their first game against Cornell since 2010.

“We have been playing a very tough schedule and playing well overall so our mentality is good,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “We need to keep doing the things that we have done well, but we also need to sharpen up a couple of areas and look to be more aggressive and dangerous in the attack.

For Yale to emerge victorious, the team will certainly need to perform better than it did in a 1–0 loss to UConn on Wednesday. The Elis were outshot 10–3 and forced zero corner kicks in front of a home crowd at Reese Stadium against the Huskies. The game’s only goal was tallied by UConn forward Abdou Thiam, who scored off of a cross in the 28th minute. While the Huskies average less than two goals a game, they have blanked their opponents in seven of their 13 games this season.

Cornell, which failed to win any of its first 11 games, notched its first victory of the season in a 3–2 victory over Colgate on Tuesday night. The Big Red have failed to score a goal in five of its 12 matches and are conceding an average 2.88 goals per game, the highest goals against average in the Ivy League. The Elis have scored only 0.88 goals per game, the lowest average in the Ivy League but should be able to capitalize on Cornell’s weak defense and find the twine more than once.

A win on Sunday would be a momentum boost for a Bulldog team that has lost five of its past six games and did not score a single goal in those five defeats. If the Elis want to have any chance of keeping pace in the Ivy League, a win over Cornell is a necessity, especially since the Big Red have the worst record of any of Yale’s remaining opponents and are currently ranked last in the Ancient Eight.

“It is a must-win for us to keep ourselves in the picture in the Ivy League,” midfielder Nicky Downs ’19 said. “It’s our biggest game of the season.”

Cornell tops the conference with 57 saves and 169 fouls, averaging 14.08 fouls per game. The team is paced by midfielder Jack Ferguson, who leads the team with two goals, and forwards Jonathan Cullom and George Pedlow, who each have one goal and one assist.

Last season, Yale outshot Cornell 15–11, forced six more corner kicks and accumulated six fewer fouls but ultimately fell to the Big Red 2–1 in overtime. The difference-maker was an own goal conceded by the Eli goalkeeper, who had a clear deflected into his own net. If the Bulldogs can minimize self-inflicted errors and maintain an offensive attack, they have a chance to earn their first conference victory and first multiple-win season since 2013.

“The game last year was one that we thought we were unlucky to lose,” midfielder An Le ’19 said. “There’s definitely that added incentive to go to their place this year and leave with a win. Like any conference game, we know how important it is to perform well and get the result we’re looking for in the Ivy League.”

The Bulldogs kick off at 1 p.m. on Sunday.