Back home on the East Coast after a trip to California, the Yale women’s soccer team welcomes Colorado College to Reese Stadium before taking a brief journey to the University of Massachusetts. With No. 20 Princeton, the first contest of the Ivy League season, looming next weekend, these two games are the team’s last opportunity to prepare for a promising conference campaign.
The Bulldogs (6–1–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) finished their away tour one and one, first dispatching the University of the Pacific (2–5–1, 0–0–0 West Coast) 0–2 before suffering a blowout 7–0 loss to No. 2 Stanford (6–1–0, 0–0–0 Pac-12). Facing another set of tigers, this time in the form of Colorado College (3–3–0, 0–0–0 SCAC), and the University of Massachusetts (2-4-1, 0-0-0 Colonial), the Bulldogs have a final chance to fine tune ahead of the business end of the season.
“If we keep playing the same way and come out stronger and more willing to sacrifice on the field, we can make this season great,” defender Hannah Coy ’18 said. “We have momentum despite the Stanford game, and I have really high expectations for this year. Princeton, Harvard and Brown provide a lot of good competition, but I am confident in our ability to do well in the Ivies this year.”
Against the University of the Pacific, the Bulldogs demonstrated their best attributes: resilience, depth, and both attacking and defensive prowess. Coming off a long flight starting in the early hours of the morning from New Haven, the team and head coach Rudy Meredith depended on a consistent roster which includes eight players who have started every contest in 2017.
The Stanford game was the ultimate stress test for the Elis. Tasked with defeating the number two team in the nation — a squad led by a pair of U.S. Women’s National Team players, Andi Sullivan and Tierna Davidson — Yale had to identify its own strengths more than the Cardinal’s weaknesses. Believing in their battle-tested, veteran defense, the Bulldogs held out for 26 minutes until the expected cavalcade of goals arrived. But the team recognized how this game was more about developing skills than the final result.
“The Stanford game was more a learning experience because they [were] number one in the country [in prior weeks this season],” defender Brittany Simpson ’19 said. “It was such a good experience playing against them because we can see how they play and take things from what they do and improve our game.”
With these lessons in mind, the Bulldogs now turn towards Colorado College, who, after a slow start to the season, have now picked up two wins. Last weekend, the Tigers smashed a destitute University of South Dakota 4–1 and then earned their first clean sheet in a 2–0 win against Army.
The stars of this recent turnaround in form are midfielder Lauren Milliet and forward Clara Richter. Against South Dakota, Milliet struck a hat trick with Richter providing a goal and two assists. Against Army, the two found themselves at the core of all of the Tigers positive attacking moves; Richter found the net for the second game running while Milliet morphed into a midfield maestro, looping a through ball over the backline for her companion.
However, there is a caveat to their recent success: all the wins have been at home. In the unfamiliar territory of New Haven, the Tigers may be about to be tamed.
Similarly to Colorado College, the Minutewomen of UMass have left behind a bleak start to the season and were unbeaten in their last three games until a loss to Brown on Thursday. The strength of Yale’s defense and its four clean sheets should be enough to blunt UMass’ attack. For the Elis, this game will be about maintaining high standards heading into the fixture against Princeton.
Again, like Colorado College, UMass’s recent results have a footnote. Both the games against the University of Maine and Delaware could not be decided in regulation. The Minutewomen failed to take charge of games from the start, as seen in the contest against the Fightin’ Blue Hens which ended in double overtime as a 1–1 draw.
“These are the last nonconference games before Ivies. It will be interesting to see how we bounce back after our loss since it’s our first of the season,” captain Carlin Hudson ’18 said. “If we can dominate these games, we will be able to be strong heading into Princeton. Although we experienced our first loss, we are still confident that we can win this weekend and be 8–1 headed into Ivies.”
The Elis will be in action at Reese Field, Friday at 7 p.m. against Colorado College and Sunday at 2 p.m. against UMass.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org