Robbie Short

A punchless Cornell attack found its uppercut to KO the Yale women’s soccer team on Saturday, stranding the Elis in the low ranks of the Ivy League table.

Coming off their first win of the season over cellar-dwelling Dartmouth last week, the Bulldogs (5–5–3, 1–2–1 Ivy) came into the game against Cornell (4–7–2, 1–2–1) looking to mount a title challenge. Still, despite outshooting the Big Red 24–6, putting 12 strikes on target compared to Cornell’s four, and winning nine more corners than its opponent, Yale’s inefficiency in the box condemned the team to a 2–1 defeat.

“I think we know that there are some things we can work on,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We all agree that as a team we can play better. I thought we played good in spurts, and the effort was good.”

The Elis had shown a mixed bag of results in conference play entering the match. An encouraging draw against defending champion Princeton, a demoralizing loss to Harvard and a shutout victory over the Big Green left the Bulldogs in the thick of the conference title race. Following its first Ivy League shutout in just under a year, Yale entered the Cornell game as the ostensible favorite.

Entering Saturday’s match, the Big Red had scored four goals in its 12 games this season, only one of which came in its last nine matches.

But on the pitch, the problems that have plagued the Elis this year — failure to capitalize on offense, an inability to kill off games and momentary defensive lapses — came back to bite them at an inopportune moment.

“Looking at the stats, it is clear that we dominated the game,” goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said. “[We] had enough opportunities to get the win. One of the main things that was decisive in the result was efficiency in the box.”

The Bulldogs put six shots on frame in the opening 21 minutes of the first half, but could not find a path past Big Red goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy. Cornell provided a contrast in efficiency, notching the game’s first goal with its first shot on target of the match. Midfielder Elizabeth Crowell raced onto a flicked header and collided with the oncoming Fagel at the edge of the Yale penalty area. The ball spun to Cornell midfielder Jessica Ritchie, who slotted the ball into the empty net, snapping a 526-minute scoreless streak for Cornell.

Normal service resumed for the Bulldogs, who took two more shots on goal before the half and didn’t allow the Big Red to attempt another shot. Despite its perceived superiority, Yale entered the locker room facing a 1–0 deficit.

Cornell avoided an equalizer at the start of the start of the second half when midfielder Carli Berry cleared a header by Yale defender Carlin Hudson ’18 off the goal line. But seven minutes later, Yale won a golden opportunity when Cornell was whistled for a handball in the box. Leading scorer, forward Aerial Chavarin ’20, drew the Elis level, confidently converting from 12 yards for her ninth goal of the season.

While the Bulldogs continued to press on the attack late in the game, Big Red midfielder Juliana Comer found the game-winning goal in the 77th minute. Another flicked header, this time from a throw-in, found the freshman in space, and Comer took a touch before slipping a shot past Fagel. Yale could not net a second tying goal before the final whistle blew.

Saturday’s loss leaves the Bulldogs teetering on the edge of elimination in the Ancient Eight. With just one victory through its first four conference matches, Yale stands eight points behind league leader Columbia, which has roared to a 4–0 record in the conference. Harvard, at 2–0–2 in the conference, owns both a commanding lead over the Elis and the tiebreaker by virtue of its Oct. 1 victory against the Bulldogs. Though not yet mathematically eliminated, Yale requires a minor miracle in order to capture this year’s Ivy crown.

“If we tie or lose [any future] game, we’ll be out,” Meredith said. “If you don’t score, you can [at best] tie. … It’ll be about scoring first and trying to get more than one goal.”

Now needing to win out, the Elis will commence the toughest stretch of their season on Saturday against Penn, whom they have not beaten since 2009. The Quakers are currently tied with the Bulldogs at fourth in the standings, yet their non-conference victories have propelled them to a 7–3–2 overall record.

To score more than once against the Penn is a rare feat; the Quakers have held opponents to a single goal or fewer in 11 consecutive matches and boast a league-leading +18 goal differential. Moreover, the Yale defense will have to stay resolute against Penn’s high-powered offense, which has scored at least four goals on four occasions.

“The coaches have sent us a lot of videos of pro teams showing their structure and shape with formations similar to ours,” midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 said. “We focused a lot of our practice time on making sure we got our defensive shape exactly right.”

The Bulldogs will kick off against the Quakers at Reese Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m.