The Yale women’s soccer team burst out of the starting block at a full sprint, notching an opening pair of shutout victories before  coming out on top in a five-goal thriller to jump to 3–0.

A statement 1–0 victory over a nationally-ranked University of Connecticut squad in Storrs on Friday provided a sterling introduction to the program’s eight rookies. The Elis followed up that success with a comprehensive 3–0 dismantling of a depleted Delaware State squad in their home debut on Sunday to record their second win. Sacred Heart provided a fiercer opponent on Tuesday night, breaching the Yale defense twice, but midfielder Sarah Jordan ’21 introduced herself dramatically to Bulldogs fans with a late goal that provided the margin in the 3–2 win.

“[The UConn game was] the first away win against a ranked opponent out of conference in Yale women’s soccer history,” captain and defender Carlin Hudson ’18 said. “While we already believed we could win the Ivy League this year, the win over UConn turned that belief into more of an expectation. We have seen what we are capable of and can continue to build on that.”

UConn entered the game ranked No. 21 in the country, coming off a second-round exit in the NCAA tournament a year ago. Yale had never defeated the Huskies in Storrs and had tallied a mere two victories in the overall series. The Bulldogs came heartbreakingly close to a win back in 2008, only to see UConn find a dramatic equalizer with 1.1 seconds to play and steal a victory in overtime. Despite this daunting historical record, the Elis opened the game strongly and seized an early lead midway through the first half.

With 18 minutes gone, forward Michelle Alozie ’19 darted into the box before going down under the challenge of a Husky defender. Midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 found the loose ball on the edge of the area and belted a shot into the back of the net to give Yale the lead.

The Bulldog defense played superbly, limiting UConn to just four shots, none of which forced goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 into a save. The experienced Yale backline of Hannah Coy ’18, Hudson, Mackenzie Marsh ’19 and Brittany Simpson ’19 showed off their cohesion as a unit, stifling the Husky attack.

“That win is an incredible way to start the season,” goalkeeper Maritza Grillo ’19 said. “Taking down a top-20 team like UConn not only helps build team confidence, but also motivates everyone to work toward a championship season.”

Following the upset, the Elis faced Delaware State in an early 10 a.m. kickoff to open their home slate. The Hornets traveled to New Haven facing an uphill battle; they carry only 17 players on the roster and not all of them made the trip.

The Bulldogs suffered a first-half lethargy from the UConn win, and the teams entered the break in a goalless deadlock. Less than three minutes into the second stanza, Alozie found a pocket of space in the six-yard box to turn home a low, driven cross from Coy and her sliding finish put Yale ahead.

“We stress in practice to be at the end of the crosses,” Alozie said. “When Hannah is making that tiring run up the field, the least I can do is get in front of my defender and redirect it into the open net — it’s honestly the easiest goal to score.”

Scarcely five minutes later, the junior forward doubled her tally, firing another low cross from Coy into the roof of the net to extend the Eli advantage to 2–0. Alozie’s second goal brought her halfway to last season’s total of four goals, the second highest on the team, and provided a crucial lift for the Bulldogs given the injury to last season’s top scorer, Aerial Chavarin ’20.

Midfielder Sarah Jordan ’21 capped off the day with a volley that deflected home off a Delaware State defender. On the other end of the field, the Hornets mustered only a solitary shot on target and failed to engender any serious assaults on the Eli goal. Goalkeeper Jane Buckley ’20 earned her first career shutout in net.

“The entire team has defended really well and is truly the reason why teams haven’t been able to break us down,” Hudson said. “Our midfield three do a great job of intercepting passes and breaking up play higher up the field and our forwards press their defenders hard and force mistakes. It’s a team effort, and I’m impressed but not surprised by how hard everyone has been working on the field.”

The Bulldogs completed their trifecta with a dramatic late winner from Jordan against Sacred Heart to grab a 3–2 win. Hudson handed Yale a first-half advantage with a textbook power header off a cross from attacking midfielder Keri Cavallo ’19.

That lead held up until just past the hour when the Elis slipped back into their defensive struggles of years past. Last season, set pieces proved the bane of the Bulldog defense, which was the case once again as a scramble off a Pioneer free kick led to the equalizer.

With 15 minutes to go, forward Sarah McCauley ’18 arrowed a shot from the edge of the 18 into the back of the net, handing the Elis what seemed a decisive goal to wrap up the points. But scarcely a minute later, Sacred Heart had pulled even for the second time, as a shot from distance snuck past Fagel to level the sides.

However, more drama still lay in store. McCauley found Jordan in space, and the first-year finished the second goal of her career with aplomb to put Yale ahead for good. Jordan enters Yale with an impressive soccer resume, with two all-state selections in New Jersey and an appearance in last year’s High School All-American campaign. She has delivered on that promise so far, adding more depth to a Yale team that lost just one starter, defender and captain Colleen McCormack ’17, from last season.

“[Our depth] is crucial to us, especially when we’re playing a lot of games early in the season,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We can rotate players, save some legs, hopefully cut down on injuries also. Getting that support from our bench is vital to being successful.”

The Bulldogs face Miami on Friday under the lights at Reese Stadium before embarking on a weeklong road trip that will take them to California and a matchup with No. 1 Stanford.

Chris Bracken | christopher.bracken@yale.edu | @chrisbracken16