Although the Elis graduated just a single midfielder last spring, the Yale men’s soccer team has reloaded its offense with a slew of talented first years, led by the Reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week, forward Aldo Quevedo ’21.
Outshooting their opponents 38–12 in their opening weekend of play, the Elis demonstrated the crucial role their offense will play in determining the success of the 2017 season. While returners like captain and midfielder Archie Kinnane ’18 and midfielder Nicky Downs ’19 add skill and experience to the offense, first-year forwards Matthew Massaad ’21, DJ Palmer ’21 and Quevedo all add experienced resumes of their own and new talent to the team. They are joined by midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21, defender Jack Arnold ’21 and goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21.
“As a class we bring hunger and a different point of view of soccer,” Quevedo said. “We’re younger and really excited to play. We bring drive and a passion for the game.”
Quevedo, a Dallas native and top 150 recruit, played predominantly for the U-18 FC Dallas Academy club team before beginning his college career just a few short weeks ago. After an intense stint of preseason training which began in early August, Quevedo played in his first collegiate game against Fairleigh Dickinson in the season opener.
However, it was his goal and assist in Yale’s 3–0 win over Howard on Sunday that earned him conference recognition as Ivy League Rookie of the Week. While Quevedo said he felt honored to receive the award, he credited the returning players on the team for helping him and his fellow first years with their transition into Yale.
“From the very first day I got here all the seniors have been really welcoming,” Quevedo said. “They’ve taught us everything on and off the field … from showing us around campus to giving advice on classes.”
According to Kinnane, preseason is especially important for a fall sport like soccer where the competitive season starts almost at the same time as classes. The first years and the rest of the team have little time to practice together before competition begins in the short 16-game season.
Since styles of play vary across teams and schools, adjusting can be a challenge for incoming players, but Kinnane was optimistic about the six newest additions to the Elis’ team.
“It’s definitely a big transition for anyone to get used to the speed and physicality of college soccer,” Kinnane said. “But it’s a really talented group and I think they’ve handled it well.”
Palmer reiterated this sentiment when describing his appearance in Sunday’s victorious game against Howard, saying the rate of play was quick, but once he settled in with his teammates, the game came more naturally. It was in Sunday’s game that many members of the first-year squad saw noteworthy playing time and a taste of Division I play: Massaad took a heavy hit from the Bison defense as he played forward, while Winhoffer finessed around the field’s mid-line.
The first years attributed much of their success and adjustment to each other and to the leadership and guidance of veterans, both in preseason and now, as games have begun. Over the years, the team has coined certain pregame rituals and chants to pump the players up, an act of both community and focused determination. Palmer re-enacted his favorite saying, “Bang!” as his flicked his wrist in a show of excitement, while Winhoffer prefers the less dramatic “Vamos Papi.”
According to Winhoffer, as the Elis look ahead, the team has set ambitious goals: qualify for the tournament and, hopefully, win the Ivy League.
“I think it is very doable with the guys we have on the team,” Winhoffer said. “You will never find a harder working team than us right now.”
In pursuit of their goals, the Bulldogs host Hartford at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Reese Stadium.