Coming off a historic 6–0–0 start, the Yale women’s soccer team fell to No. 2 Stanford last weekend. As the Bulldogs look toward games against Colorado College and the University of Massachusetts this weekend before their first Ivy contest against Princeton, goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 spoke to the News about the team’s adjustments from last year and its outlooks for upcoming 2017 competition.

Q: Last year, Yale also started the season 3–0–0, but through seven games owned a 3–2–2 record compared to your 6–1–0 through seven games this season. What changed from last year to this year?

A: We definitely emphasized over the summer that everyone needed to stay in shape, everybody needed to be playing soccer on their own. Coming in, we knew it was going to be a competitive environment. Everyone wants to fight for play time, and having competitive practices really helps push each other to be their best. Our captain [defender] Carlin [Hudson ’18] was a big aspect of that. She really knew that we had the potential this year. We had eight incomers, all really talented and all pushing each other, they were trying to get play time, and that meant that all the people who already had starting spots had to work that much harder to keep their spot.

Q: This season, so far, you and fellow sophomore Jane Buckley ’20 have played nearly identical minutes in goal this season. What do the two of you bring individually to the team, and how do you see your shared responsibilities?

A: It’s been great. Jane and I come from very similar backgrounds — both from Northern California, both possession-oriented teams — which means that our style of play is very similar. I think the coaches notice that too. When it comes to distinguishing us, it can be as small as who held onto the ball because we just are such similar goalkeepers, similar personalities. I definitely think it’s been interesting for the defense. You get comfortable with one goalie, so if we’re switching in and out, it’s been a testament to their adaptability, that they’re able to adjust depending on who’s in. Both of us, because we’re similar, have been pushing each other to reach our fullest potential.

Q: In your two years on Yale’s team, you’ve had two defenders, Colleen McCormack ’17 and now Carlin Hudson, captain your team. How does leadership from a defensive-minded player impact your performance in goal?

A: Personally, I love having a defender be the captain. I think they can see a lot of the field, even more so than the goalkeeper. As a position that’s actually running up and down the field and not standing in the same general area, [they have] more right to be able to tell people what to do and know better than the goalkeeper about what to do. But I also love having a defender as the captain because they’re really good at making sure people come back, making sure people help defend — you can really see that this year. We are doing such a great job of allowing as few shots as possible and I think a lot of that comes from Carlin being vocal and making sure our [midfielders] get back and block any shots. That shows that our team is really defensively minded this year and a lot of that comes from the captain being at center back.

Q: You mentioned the new first years earlier. With Ciara Ostrander ’21 and Sarah Jordan ’21 taking two of the first three Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors this season, can you speak to the impact that the team’s youth has had through the nonconference schedule? What is their ceiling for accomplishment by the end of the season?

A: One of the key differences this year is that we have such a deep bench. Even if not all the first years are starting, we know right away that they can be put in and the level of play can stay at the same level. You need to be able to have people who can come in and out. I think that shows because Sarah Jordan and Ciara haven’t consistently started, but when they come in they make an impact. By the end of the season we’ll be able to at least have them play enough this year, all eight of them. We’re losing so many great seniors after this season, and we want to train the first years to be able to replace them as well as they can.

Q: Last week, Yale received votes in the national top-25 poll. Your first Ivy League opponent is Princeton, which just earned a No. 20 national ranking. How is your team preparing for a possible upset game?

A: For better or for worse, we start with Princeton. It could end really well, where we could knock them out right off the bat. One of the things with soccer is you only play every Ivy League school once, which means that one loss can ruin your whole season. I think it motivates us a lot. We have two more games before Ivies start … and I think it’s going to show how we bounce back from Stanford and get our confidence back up before going into that Princeton game. We’re playing them on their home field, [in the] first Ivy League game, they’re going to have a big crowd, they’re going to heckle a lot, and I think it’s going to show a lot of character of our team in how we put it together and how we go and perform in that game.

Q: Has nonconference play changed the team’s expectations for Ivy season?

A: It’s been huge. Last year, even though we started 3–0, it didn’t mean as much as the 6–0 this year because none of those teams were ranked, and we were kind of expecting to beat all of them. This year, UConn and Miami in particular come from big conferences, and beating them really showed us that even though Princeton might have beaten Wake Forest, we also beat UConn, who was ranked at the time, and we have that potential too. Even though Princeton might be ranked higher than us, on any given day you don’t know how we’re going to come out. This team is so motivated this year. We have nine seniors [and] everyone wants to work for them because they’ve never won an Ivy title and this is the year that we have a really good shot at it. So I think everybody’s super motivated going into that Princeton game to really show.