After finishing an away tour in the West, the Yale women’s soccer team returns to the Northeast with the best start in team history.
The Elis (6–1–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) secured their sixth consecutive win on Friday by defeating the University of the Pacific (2–4–1, 0–0–0 West Coast) 0–2 in Stockton, California. The victory was a refreshing return to full form following a shaky outing against Hofstra (3–3–2, 0–0–0 Colonial) this past Monday. A seventh win proved elusive for the Bulldogs, with Sunday’s visit to No. 2 Stanford (6–1–0, 0–0–0 Pac-12) resulting in a lopsided 7–0 loss.
“Being able to play against such a high caliber team was a great opportunity for the team,” defender Christine Oberhausen ’20 said of Stanford. “It was a chance to practice implementing high intensity and focus that we will soon need during Ivies. … One specific takeaway is that it is less about individual defending and more about keeping defensive shape as a team.”
Although tired from jet lag and travel, Yale recovered well against the underdog University of the Pacific. The Elis started off sluggishly but came alive in the second half. Striker Michelle Alozie ’19 continued her fine form and scored twice at the start of the second half in the 46th and 52nd minutes. Defender Meg Byfield ’18 and midfielder Keri Cavallo ’19 provided the key assists that propelled Yale to its best start in team history.
The Bulldogs defense also held firm for the fourth time this season. Accompanying the offensive uptick in the second half, the backline limited the Tigers to a single shot after the break. From minutes 45 to 90, the Elis’ offense, midfield and defense acted in sync despite their fatigue.
“We had some tired legs in the first game,” head coach Rudy Meredith said, referring to the team’s difficult travel schedule. “We had to play more people and make more substitutions in the first game. It was a tough trip and we had to go the bench a lot more.”
With the Stanford fixture looming, the biggest question ahead of the game against the Tigers was whether the team would be distracted by Sunday’s match. In previous weekends this season, the Friday night fixtures have seen Yale face their toughest opponents — UConn and Miami — while the Sunday and midweek games have been occupied by lower-ranked teams. In this setup, the Elis have performed well against their more illustrious competition while being forced to exert more against less favored teams like Sacred Heart, whom Yale beat 3–2.
Despite the reversal of this trend in California, the Bulldogs demonstrated a capacity to play and perform in the present rather than reminisce on past success or consider future foes.
Greeting Yale at Stanford’s stadium was an unusually sizable crowd of away fans composed of friends and family of the many Yale players who grew up and played in California and the Bay Area.
Led by two recent United States Women’s National Team call-ups — senior midfielder Andi Sullivan, who has been called up four times, and recent call-up sophomore defender Tierna Davidson — Stanford were initially frustrated by a Yale team that determinedly held a 4-5-1 formation.
“Yale started out pressuring hard, but 15 minutes in they started to settle,” Stanford forward Madison Haley said. “Yale was sitting into their defensive half. We haven’t faced a team that has played with ten people staying back, so we had to react to that. Yale played very aggressively, and it was a really, really competitive match.”
The Elis looked prepared to dig in for a draw, but, 26 minutes into the game, junior midfielder Jordan DiBiasi struck and opened the floodgates. With its first tally on the scoreboard, Stanford had more space to operate in and would continue to pound the net. Had it not been for goalkeepers Alyssa Fagel ’20 and her eight saves in the first half, plus Jane Buckley’s ’20 three saves after the break, Yale surely would have been down more than five at the half and seven upon the final whistle.
Other than a pass or two after kickoff, Yale failed to string together more than a couple passes at a time. More often than not, the defense reverted to kicking the ball long due to the incessant pressure of the Cardinal forwards and midfield. The whole game took place in the Bulldog’s half, and in the infrequent moments Yale found itself in an attacking position, Stanford’s voracious physicality snuffed out any potential.
Yale’s only shot on target, which came off the foot of forward Ciara Ostrander ’21 and rolled into the awaiting arms of Stanford keeper Alison Jahansouz, was emblematic not only of the few opportunities the Elis had but also of the control Stanford maintained from start to finish.
“Going into the game we knew we had to respect Stanford,” Oberhausen said. “However, we also knew that, regardless of their ranking, when we were on the field it was just as much our chance to compete as it was theirs. We played a more defensive game, starting with a 4-5-1 rather than a 4-3-3, but planned on quickly transitioning when we won possession to create a counter.”
Demonstrating supreme technical ability, the Cardinal attack employed dummies, dribbling moves and elaborate free kick plays to bamboozle and stretch the Bulldogs’ defense. By game’s end, Stanford outshot Yale 37 to three and featured goals and assists from seven and four players, respectively. Stanford’s attack was varied and potent and even Yale’s generally impressive defense was ill-equipped to contend.
“We have learned a lot playing and beating team like UConn and Miami and facing teams with the caliber of Stanford,” Meredith said. “Stanford definitely punishes you when you make little mistakes, so we have to work on cleaning up some of those little mistakes.”
Yale returns to action next Friday against Colorado College.
Contact Caleb Rhodes at firstname.lastname@example.org .