Robbie Short

Coming off four winless matches after a historic start to the season, the Yale women’s soccer team will seek its first conference victory against rival Harvard.

In their respective Ivy League openers last weekend, both teams recorded losses —  No. 14 Princeton (8–1–0, 1–0–0 Ivy) defeated the Bulldogs (6–3–1, 0–1–0) 2–0 while the Crimson (6–4–0, 0–1–0) fell 1–0 to Penn (2–5–2, 1–0–0). Yale enters the match with as many wins and one fewer loss than Harvard, but has not beaten the Crimson since 2007. Harvard has emerged victorious in the two teams’ last nine meetings and leads the series historically 32–8–2.

“[The Harvard game] is huge,” midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 said. “We want to win for the rivalry especially because it’s at home, but conference-wise we also need every point we can get.”

Last weekend against the Tigers, the Elis initially struggled. Princeton’s composure in attack forced the Bulldogs to fall into a deep defensive shell that not only invited pressure but also prevented them from attacking themselves. This vicious cycle continued throughout the first half, but for all of the possession and time the Tigers had, at 45 minutes the score was only 1–0.

Prior to the Princeton fixture, Yale’s formerly free-flowing offense had dried up; it entered the match having scored only one goal in the three previous games. After the first half, this drought seemed likely to continue, but a tactical switch from Head Coach Rudy Meredith opened up the game. For the first time in weeks, the Bulldogs looked confident in attack.

“We haven’t scored in the last two games, so we have to focus on creating quality goalscoring chances in the game,” coach Meredith said. “We are going to work on that all this week. [It is] very difficult to win the league if you go 0–2. We [and Harvard] both lost our first Ivy League game, so the importance of this game is magnified.”

While Yale never actually scored in its eventual 2–0 loss to Princeton, the signs of an offensive revival were there, and the Elis will need this revival to fully blossom against a Harvard team that thrives on its defensive prowess. The Crimson have kept five clean sheets this year and boast a goals-against average only bettered in the Ivy League by Princeton. But the strong defense masks a suspect offense.

Four of Harvard’s six wins finished with a 1–0 scoreline, and the Crimson average just one goal a game entering the Yale fixture. Despite having scored just once in its last four matches, the Bulldogs still average 1.5 goals a game. If the Elis can find a single goal, they will likely walk away with at least a draw, as Harvard has posted just two multi-goal games this year.

This season, Yale has been formidable at home with a 3–0–1 record. After a spate of away games, the comforts of Reese Stadium should settle the team’s nerves for a campaign-defining fixture, as an 0–2 start to Ivy play would hamstring Yale’s conference aspirations. Harvard may have history on its side, but a poor away record 2–3–0 and inconsistent form in recent matches leave the game completely up for grabs.

Behind a raucous home crowd, the atmosphere of a rivalry game and implications for the Ivy table, the Bulldogs enter this match determined to return to their early season form.

“Going into Harvard, we need to believe in ourselves that we are the better team going in and play that way,” defender Brittany Simpson ’19 said. “We went 6–0 to start the year. We just need to get our confidence back.”

Saturday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. from Reese Stadium.

Caleb Rhodes | caleb.rhodes@yale.edu

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu