The Yale women’s soccer team roared out of the gate with three consecutive wins to open the 2017 season and will look to run that win streak to four with a Friday night matchup against a talented University of Miami team.
The Elis (3–0–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) upset No. 21 University of Connecticut (0–2–1, 0–0–0 American) in their first game, seizing their first road win against the Huskies in program history. After two wins over lesser lights, the Bulldogs face another power conference opponent in the form of the Hurricanes (3–1–0, 0–0–0 Atlantic Coast), who finished with a winning record in a competitive ACC a season ago.
“This is the best team chemistry I have experienced since being here,” midfielder Meg Byfield ’18 said. “There is a work ethic and want to win that is contagious, and I think that was a main contributor in the win over UConn. That sort of big win is something we haven’t experienced in years past, so right now we are riding on that confidence and using it to prepare for the season.”
Thus far, the Elis have built their success on defensive solidity, with three starting defenders and goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 returning from last year and turning in high-level performances.
Yale opened the year with a pair of clean sheets before conceding twice in the second half against Sacred Heart. Against the Huskies, the Elis’ stalwart defensive line, featuring captain Carlin Hudson ’18 and an experienced cadre of veterans — Hannah Coy ’18, Kristina Kim ’18, Mackenzie Marsh ’19 and Brittany Simpson ’19 — prevented UConn from taking a single shot on target. A few days later against Delaware State (0–5–0, 0–0–0 Mid-Eastern), the defense almost forced the opposing team to draw another blank, but a lone shot on target 13 minutes from time put the Hornets on the board.
“It’s clear [our defenders] feel comfortable working together,” Fagel said. “Having Carlin as a center back provides an incredible amount of leadership and determination to the defense. After having trouble with this last year, one of the goals we have this season is to really minimize how much we concede off of set pieces and crosses.”
Due to the team’s defensive success, the midfield and offense have had plenty of chances in the first few games, amassing seven goals in the opening trio of matches. Midfielder Sarah Jordan ’21 scored two late goals, including a game winner against Sacred Heart to open her Yale account, and forward Michelle Alozie ’19 has lit up the scoreboard with two goals and two assists while last season’s leading scorer, forward Aerial Chavarin ’20, continues to miss time due to injury.
Maintaining a high level of play on both sides of the ball will be key for the Bulldogs as they face their second Power Five conference opponent of the year. Despite being picked to finish last in the ACC, the 2016 Miami squad surged to a top-half league finish before falling to then-No. 14 Clemson in penalty kicks in the first round of the ACC tournament. The Hurricanes have established themselves as a team on the rise with a number of statement victories, including a pair of upsets over then-No. 2 Virginia and then-No. 25 Virginia Tech last season.
“Our preparation for this Miami game will be treated like how we prepared for UConn,” Fagel said. “Going in as an underdog is great because all you can do is surprise the opponent. While we know Miami is a solid team and had two extra weeks of preseason than we did, our team is very motivated coming into this game.”
Miami opened the 2017 season with three whirlwind victories before a 1–0 loss to Cincinnati spoiled its undefeated mark. The Bearcats’ game-winning goal is the only finish the Hurricanes have conceded on the season; the Miami offense, on the other hand, has netted 10 goals, including six in an evisceration of St. Francis-Pennsylvania.
Senior forward and co-captain Ronnie Johnson tops the goalscoring charts for the Hurricanes, averaging a goal a game in her four appearances, and Kristina Fisher has provided the creative spark in midfield, netting a goal and five assists. On the other side of the pitch, goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce has been a brick wall throughout her career in the Green and Orange, having compiled 10 shutouts in just 28 career games. She backstops a defense that allowed just 16 goals last season, and has shown the same parsimony so far this campaign.
“Since I’ve been on the team, this has been the strongest start we’ve had,” midfielder Keri Cavallo ’19 said. “[The] shutouts against UConn and Delaware State raised our confidence. I’m looking forward to playing another team who is ranked nationally — we have never had the opportunity to play teams of this caliber in the past.”
The Bulldogs kick off Friday night under the lights at Reese Stadium at 7 p.m.
Chris Bracken | email@example.com | @chrisbracken16
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org