In its final game of the 2016 season, the Yale men’s soccer team tied Princeton 1–1. Both goals were scored inside of the game’s first 24 minutes, but neither team could find a second tally throughout the remaining 86 minutes of regular and overtime play.
The tie places the Bulldogs (3–10–3, 1–4–2 Ivy) sixth in the league, ahead of winless Cornell and disqualified Harvard, and just behind Princeton (7–7–2, 1-–3–2). Had the Elis beaten the Tigers on Saturday, they would have jumped their opponent in the standings. The sixth-place finish places Yale in its highest slot since 2013, after finishing in last each of the previous two seasons.
“I believe the team as a whole feels this season showed a lot of progress compared to last season,” midfielder An Le ’19 said. “We managed to get more wins than last year as well as a great result away from home against a talented Michigan team. Also, the overall attitude and chemistry of the team is better this year. Nonetheless, we know that we need to continue to work hard to push this program forward and to win an Ivy League championship in the future.”
The game’s scoring started early, with Yale striking first in the 16th minute. After receiving a pass back from midfielder Archie Kinnane ’18, halfback Cam Riach ’19 looked up and saw a sprinting midfielder Nicky Downs ’19. Riach launched a missile across the field with the drone-like precision, dropping his bomb at the feet of Downs. The midfielder, sprinting at full speed, took a perfect touch without breaking stride, sending the ball gliding just a few yards ahead of him. Downs’ shot sliced through the air past the outstretched goalie and into the side netting.
The Bulldogs were not able to hold onto their lead for long, as less than eight minutes later, the Tigers retaliated. Defender Greg Seifert flicked the ball to Sean McSherry, who had slipped by his man, off of a throw-in. With his first touch, he sent a rolling cross that Yale goalkeeper Andrew Bortey ’20 dove for, but ultimately could not reach. Midfielder Bryan Prudil found the other end of the cross and smashed it home.
The game’s scoring ended with Princeton’s first goal, but the Tiger’s offense did not relent. The Elis’ defense weathered an incredible 20 shots from their New Jersey opponents, seven of which were on target. Yale’s offense, on the other hand, largely sputtered after Princeton’s tally, managing just one shot on goal thereafter.
All four of Yale’s seniors started their final game, including goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17, who had not played in over a year due to a concussion he sustained on Nov. 7, 2015. For Simpson, the 35 seconds he spent on the pitch meant more than time could tell.
“The past year has been a whirlwind of events,” Simpson said. “Just those few seconds, however, marked a symbol of how unity, camaraderie, family and compassion can overcome anything, together. I hope that this moment in my life can show the true fragility of life, the value of life’s privileges and the commitment every athlete and student should have in making the most of every moment we have at this University and beyond. The past four years on this team has been a true privilege, pleasure and honor.”
Despite finishing in the bottom half of the standings, the 2016 campaign marks a step forward for a Bulldog team that only recorded one win over each of the past two seasons. Moreover, the Eli’s Ancient Eight win marks the first conference victory since 2013.
According to head coach Kylie Stannard, the Elis’ young roster, which will only graduate one starter, gives the team hope for continued success next year. Yale will also see the team’s top recruit, Miguel Yuste ’20, return after missing the entire season with a torn ACL.
“We earned a couple more results than last year with a very difficult schedule and we improved our RPI standings by nearly 50 spots,” Stannard said. “We did this with having the youngest team in the Ivy League this year along with some unfortunate injuries.”