The Yale women’s soccer team finished its season with a disappointing 1–0 shutout at Brown.
The Bulldogs (6–7-–3, 2–4–1 Ivy) improved significantly in the second half after an inconsistent first, but they failed to find an equalizer to cancel out Brown captain Carly Gould’s 34th-minute header, which held up to be the winner for the Bears (9–2–5, 4–1–2).
“I think records are not indicative of the quality of play of our team, especially our defense,” captain and defender Colleen McCormack ’17 said. “We’ve had some unfortunate breaks and many setbacks [this season], but as a whole we’ve played pretty solidly. Yesterday was some of the best soccer we’ve played all season.”
The Elis entered the match coming off a thrilling overtime win over then-league leaders Columbia, 2–1, for the Bulldogs’ second conference win of the season. The Bears stood in third place in the Ancient Eight, moving up to second behind champions Harvard by the end of the day. Brown’s defense has been its strength this year, conceding just seven goals all season.
Yale started off the match well. After firing a couple of efforts off target, the Bulldogs were presented with a golden opportunity when a precise cutback found midfielder Geneva Decker ’17 unmarked at the penalty spot. She fired her shot at Brown keeper Christine Etzel, but Etzel stopped the shot and the match remained scoreless.
Brown steadily grew into the game, as the Bulldogs struggled to maintain possession in midfield. Gould gave the Eli defense a warning when a cross from the right found her at the edge of the six. But the Bears’ leading scorer mistimed her jump and sailed her header over the bar.
“We knew going into the game that Brown was strong in the air,” goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said. “One of their key players, Gould, out-heights our entire team by multiple inches, and every time they had the ball up top they looked to cross it to her head.”
Yale failed to heed that warning though, and just a minute later, after an injury to Mackenzie Marsh ’19 forced a defensive reshuffle, Gould was presented with an identical chance. Senior midfielder Ella Warshauer played a well-placed pass and junior winger Mikela Waldman whipped a dangerous ball into the box.
This time, Gould made no mistake, bulleting a powerful header into the back of the net to give the Bears the advantage at 33:52. Her goal marks the 11th time in the past 13 games the Bulldogs conceded the opening goal. Brown continued to push, but neither team could find a goal, and the Bears entered the dressing room at halftime with a 1–0 lead.
Prospects looked up for the Elis in the second period. Brown committed four fouls in the first 10 minutes, while Yale took three shots and earned a corner. Yet, try as they might, the Bulldogs were unable to convert any of their attempts. On five consecutive shots, Yale attackers were unable to work the keeper, launching the ball over the crossbar, wide of the posts or into the legs of defenders. As had happened many times throughout the year, the Elis never got the stroke of luck they so badly needed.
“I think because of the fact that we had to come from behind, it puts more stress on you as opposed to if you’re winning,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “It puts more stress on the shooter if you’re down a goal. The fact that we had to chase so many games affected our offense and our shooting [this year].”
Yale had one final opportunity in the waning moments of the season. Midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 took a shot with just 45 seconds left that finally gave Etzel a challenge, but the Brown goalie was simply too good. A final corner kick with just four seconds remaining in regulation failed to equalize, and Yale headed into the offseason on a loss.
In many ways, the game against Brown epitomized much of what made this season so exciting yet so frustrating for the Bulldogs. At times, Yale was capable of bringing the heat with its offense, overpowering a number of opponents such as Sacred Heart and Stony Brook. Yet unluckiness around the net and ill-timed concessions led to a number of losses that left the Eli players kicking themselves — and the team in sixth place in the Ancient Eight. But with so many impact freshmen and sophomores returning next season, the Bulldogs’ future looks bright.
“We have a group that’s really hungry,” Meredith said. “They know they can compete with the tough teams in the league. Other teams will be losing their best goal scorers [to graduation], and we won’t. We will have so many returning players … so that will hopefully give us confidence.”
Saturday’s match was the last career game for the five seniors: Decker, McCormack, manager Lillian Bitner ’17, forward Karina Kovalcik ’17 and defender Dani Temares ’17.