A year ago, Yale women’s soccer forward Aerial Chavarin ’20 dominated the headlines for the Bulldogs’ rookie class. The team’s top scorer swept up a plethora of hardware in her debut campaign, including three Rookie of the Week honors and the 2016 Ivy League Rookie of the Year award.

In keeping with Chavarin’s success, this year’s first-year class has already netted two Rookie of the Week awards, before the league slate has even opened. Rather than having one superstar highlight the group, however, a number of first years have provided vital contributions to a Bulldog team that has roared to a 6–2–1 start.

“We have a ton of depth this year,” midfielder Sarah Jordan ’21 said. “Our substitutes have scored a lot of important goals this season. Especially the younger girls — we have four years ahead of us. If we’re already making an impact, it’s good for the future seasons as well.”

Chavarin’s superb play up front stole all the plaudits a year ago as she forged a strong partnership with fellow striker Michelle Alozie ’19, herself a two-time Ivy Rookie of the Week honoree in 2015. However, the team lacked scoring depth beyond the young pair, which combined to net 13 of the team’s 23 goals.

By returning eight other starters alongside Chavarin and Alozie, the 2017 Elis entered the year as a team on the rise. After winning just eight of their 40 league games over the last five seasons, expectations had been raised, though the quantity and quality of contributions that the first years would provide remained an open question.

So far, the returns have been spectacular, highlighted by a pair of Rookie of the Week nods for Jordan and forward Ciara Ostrander ’21. Those two awards have served as merely a synecdoche for the stellar contributions from the entire first-year class and the enviable depth head coach Rudy Meredith has at his disposal.

Seven different players have found the net for the Elis in their first nine games on the year — three of them are rookies. In addition to Jordan and Ostrander, forwards Mia Grillo ’21, Alexandra McCraven ’21 and Lydia Shaw ’21 and midfielder Reina Bonta ’21 have all seen significant minutes and contributed to the team’s on-field success. With Chavarin sidelined at the beginning of the season due to injury, those contributions have proven even more vital than anticipated.

“All of our freshmen have the ability to win Rookie of the Week and be impactful,” captain and defender Carlin Hudson ’18 said. “They all have talent and when it’s combined with a drive to win it can be unstoppable. It’s important to have freshmen contribute because we just need as much depth as possible on the team.”

Jordan made an impression right from the start of the season. The 2016 high school All-American found the back of the net in the second game of the season, ripping home a shot from the top of the box to finish off a 3–0 dismantling of Delaware State.

Two days later, the rookie made a more decisive intervention. Yale struggled to put away a feisty Sacred Heart team that had taken advantage of the Elis’ drop in intensity from their upset of UConn, and the midfielder stepped up.

With the clock ticking down and the rain pouring down on the slick pitch, Jordan corralled a pass from midfielder Sarah McCauley ’18 at the edge of the box. She rocketed a shot into the top corner to break the 2–2 deadlock and hand the Bulldogs the third of six consecutive victories.

“It’s a big confidence booster personally [to win Rookie of the Week],” Jordan said. “You know that you’re being recognized not only by your own coaches but also by the entire league for your contributions on the field.”

The 3–2 double overtime thriller against Hofstra the next week provided a perfect platform for other first years to state their own Rookie of the Week cases.

With the Elis struggling against another smaller school coming off a big win, Shaw fired home a sudden-death winner with just over three minutes to play in the second extra period. The assist came from Ostrander, who picked out a gorgeous pass into the box to find her classmate to apply the decisive touch. Ostrander also found the net earlier in the game to level the score at one apiece, a performance which ultimately garnered her the second of Yale’s Rookie of the Week honors.

The Elis’ youthful attacking verve, combined with a solid defense comprised entirely of juniors and seniors, has provided a blueprint for success this season. On Saturday, the Bulldogs will open up Ivy play against No. 20 Princeton having notched a pair of quality wins against Power Five programs in UConn and Miami and faced No. 2 Stanford in the team’s most challenging nonconference schedule in years.

“Coming here in August, the first week was a hard adjustment, getting to know all the girls,” Ostrander said. “They were really welcoming, we had practice every day. Now, looking back on it, I definitely think that all the freshmen fit in and we all get along really well.”

Yale tied Princeton 1–1 in double overtime last season.

Chris Brackenchristopher.bracken@yale.edu | @chrisbracken16