Ivy League victories have not come easy for the Yale men’s soccer team in recent years. With 10 minutes to play in this season’s Ivy opener, Yale’s second conference win in three seasons seemed inevitable, but two Crimson goals would hand the Bulldogs the most deflating loss of their young season.
After hitting the road for three consecutive weeks, Yale (3–5–0, 0–1–0 Ivy) opened up Ivy League play at Reese Stadium against Harvard (2–5–1, 1–0–0) on Saturday. In the 28th minute, forward Aldo Quevedo ’21 scored off of a rebound to give the Bulldogs an early lead. Yale dominated for most of the game, but the Crimson rallied late with two quick goals in the final 10 minutes, shocking the Elis and leaving New Haven with just its second win of the season.
“In the last 10 minutes, we just lost focus,” forward John Leisman ’20 said. “We had been sustaining a little bit of pressure and unfortunately finally cracked. At times in the second half, we lacked the confidence and sharpness needed to keep the ball with the 1–0 lead.”
The Bulldogs put pressure on the Crimson defense as soon as the game kicked off. Crimson goalkeeper Kyle Parks had his hands full as the Elis dominated possession and kept the ball in Harvard’s half of the field for the majority of the first 45 minutes of play. Harvard’s defensive line, lead by sophomore Joel Serugo, had trouble repelling Yale’s attacks. By the end of the half, Yale edged Harvard 6–2 in shots and 4–2 in corner kicks.
Quevedo’s 28th-minute goal came off a Harvard turnover inside its own box. The rookie blocked an attempted Harvard clearance, and forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 beat the Crimson goalie to the ball, passing the ball to Quevedo for a strong finish into an open net.
“It was an incredible experience being able to score the opening goal in such a historic rivalry, but ultimately it’s a difficult one to relive considering the heartbreaking finish to the game,” Quevedo said. “Kyle Kenagy and I worked well to pressure their back line and strip the ball in their box, and I was able to shoot in between the defenders blocking the goal. It was a real rush being able to see what it meant to the fans.”
The Elis carried the energy and excitement of Quevedo’s strike into the second half, continuing to dominate possession and the flow of the match. Harvard came out looking stronger than it had in the first half, though, as possession became more evenly divided between the teams. Late in the game, Harvard seized control of the match, outshooting the Bulldogs 5–2 in the final 45 minutes.
Throughout the 90 minutes, close calls consistently went against Yale, often costing the team possession as they were building momentum. Although the Yale fans expressed their disappointment all game, head coach Kylie Stannard said afterwards that the team has to do a better job responding to unlucky decisions.
“We can’t control the calls on the field so we try not to spend unnecessary energy and emotion on things out of our control,” Stannard said. “Calls certainly weren’t going our way, but we have to cope with that a little better.”
Still, victory seemed within reach for the Elis as the final 10 minutes approached. But within a span of four minutes, Harvard’s Cornelius Bencsik and Christian Sady each scored to steal the lead away from the Bulldogs and hand them their most crushing loss of the season.
Bencsik’s goal came off a long throw deep within the Eli half. As Yale attempted to relieve the pressure in its own box, the clearance fell right to the feet of the midfielder, who was lingering on the left side just 20 yards from the Yale goal. Bencsik volleyed the ball from his first touch directly in front of the the Eli net and found the right side of the goal off a deflection from a diving Yale defender.
Just four minutes later, Sady fired a shot from the top of the box that just deflected off the fingers of the diving Yale goalkeeper, Kees Schipper ’19. The Bulldogs hustled in the final few minutes to muster an equaliser, but their efforts bore no fruit.
“Unfortunately, this game can be really cruel, and we gave them some life after we missed a clearance, and their player hit a nice shot for their first goal,” Stannard said. “Harvard capitalized on their brief momentum when they got the second goal, and I think we needed to do a better job of keeping our calm after that. It’s a valuable lesson for us, and we will learn from this in the future Ivy games.”
The Elis will continue Ivy League play next Saturday when they take on reigning Ivy co-champion Dartmouth at home.
Cristofer Zillo | firstname.lastname@example.org
Cate Sawkins | email@example.com