Despite more than an hour of quality play Saturday against one of the Ivy League’s best teams, a controversial call eliminated the Yale women’s soccer team from Ivy League championship contention Saturday.
The Bulldogs (5–6–3, 1–3–1 Ivy) came into their matchup with Penn (8–3–2, 2–2–1) in the middle of the conference pack and in desperate need of a win to avoid relegation to the bottom of the league. After 78 minutes of scoreless competition, Penn finally broke through off a corner kick to take a 1–0 lead. Minutes later, the Elis thought they had tied the game after forward Aerial Chavarin ’20 found the back of the net — except the referee called the ball in possession of Quaker keeper, Kitty Qu. That agonizing moment spelled the end for Yale, which could not find the equalizer in the final moments, dropping the team out of contention for the Ancient Eight title.
“You just feel bad for the kids,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “The players worked so hard to get the goal and to have it be taken away was very frustrating. There was a point where I thought I might get ejected I was so upset. I felt it was criminal for the kids. We will be fighting with the Ivy League offices going forward trying to get instant replay.”
Before the game, the Bulldogs stood tied in fourth place in the Ivy League, knotted with four other squads. Despite facing daunting odds, the Elis were not yet mathematically precluded from claiming the conference crown. In addition to more than a little outside help, Yale needed to win its remaining three games, including Saturday afternoon’s clash with the Quakers.
The first half featured little by the way of offense. Penn took just six shots — none of which were on target — and the Bulldogs only managed two. Against a Quaker squad that had on four occasions scored at least four goals, the Yale defense seemed to be holding its own. Moreover, the Bulldogs held fast on both first-period corner kicks, an area that had caused them trouble throughout the season. When the whistle blew and the teams trotted off to the locker rooms, the 0–0 score remained intact, and the Elis’ dreams of surviving another day did not seem so far-fetched.
Once the second half commenced, both teams turned up the heat. The Bulldogs fired three shots in the first seven minutes, including a 51st-minute attempt from midfielder Geneva Decker ’17 that Qu tipped up and off the crossbar. The Quakers and Elis each exchanged shots until the final 15 minutes. In the 79th minute, Penn won a corner kick that found the waiting feet of midfielder Emily Sands, who launched a shot past Yale goalie Alyssa Fagel ’20 to break the deadlock.
“I think sometimes we just lose focus [on set pieces],” captain and defender Colleen McCormack ’17 said. “They’re a natural pause in the game but not an excuse for a mental break. When you take one, you suffer the consequences.”
Now down a goal, the Elis set out to right the ship in the waning moments of the game. With its season on the line, Yale turned to its leading goal scorer this season, Chavarin, for some last-minute heroics.
At first, it appeared Chavarin had answered the call. After Qu blocked her shot, she seemingly dribbled the loose ball into the back of the net. However, the referee waived off the goal in debatable fashion.
“Sarah [McCauley ’18] played a beautiful ball to me, and I trapped it and tried to chip it,” Chavarin said. “[Qu] got her hands on it and hit it against the post. The ball was free, and I ran after it and scored, but the ref said the ball was in her hands [before I kicked it]. It was really disappointing.”
Meredith erupted on the sideline, livid at the call, yet it failed to inspire a comeback. The 1–0 margin held for the final 10 minutes, and Yale tallied its third conference loss, stripping the Bulldogs of any hope of an Ivy League title.
Now in fifth place in the conference with just two games to play, the Elis will have to find a way to compete with league-leader Columbia and third-place Brown before turning to the offseason. Despite the dejection the players surely feel, the Bulldogs will look to dust themselves off and set the tone for the 2017 campaign.
“I think the morale is good, actually,” Chavarin said. “We know we can’t win the Ivies or go to the NCAA tournament, so we’re just working on getting ready for next year when we’ll hopefully do both of those things.”
The Elis will play their final home game of 2016 on Saturday against Columbia. The match will kick off at 4 p.m.