On the heels of a dramatic overtime win against Dartmouth, the Yale women’s soccer team prepares to face bottom-dwelling Cornell this Saturday.
The Bulldogs (8–3–1, 2–1–0 Ivy) enter the fixture with a two-game win streak. Having ably dispatched Harvard (7–5–0, 1–2–0) a fortnight ago, the Elis labored to a 2–1 win over the Big Green (6–7–0, 0–3–0). They now face the Big Red (2–6–2, 0–2–1), a team that holds the Ivy League’s worst overall win percentage — 30 percent — and has yet to record a conference victory. With leaders Princeton and Columbia playing each other this week, Yale has an opportunity for the second week in a row to move up the table.
“I think if we bring the same energy and have the same hard practices leading up to the game, we can be successful against Cornell,” forward Aerial Chavarin ’20 said.
Chavarin — whose emphatic, overtime goal secured the Elis’ win last weekend — was one of the few bright spots against a Dartmouth team that the Bulldogs were expected to handle more comfortably. Having missed the first four games, Yale’s top scorer last year initially could not find her scoring form. Over the last few weeks, however, Chavarin has reclaimed her starting place, and her offensive sharpness has steadily increased; her golden goal in the 100th minute was the culmination of this process.
Against Cornell, Chavarin and strike partner Michelle Alozie ’19, who ranks second in the league with 19 points, should find plentiful and high-quality goal-scoring chances. The Big Red concede more goals per game than any other team in the league. Furthermore, opposing teams have tested its keepers far more than any other team in the Ancient Eight. Cornell has made 72 saves this season; Columbia and Harvard are the nearest teams with 53 each.
The Big Red’s defensive instability will invite pressure from the Yale attack, and with Chavarin back in form and Alozie continuing her season-long offensive exploits, Cornell’s defenders could be in for a long afternoon. Meanwhile, the Bulldog defense will be tasked with containing an offense that has scored only five goals in 10 games.
The biggest danger to the Elis in this game is complacency. Prior to the Harvard game, the team had an intense focus on not only winning, but also snapping its poor form. The resulting 3–0 victory hinted at how ruthless Yale can be when playing to its full potential. Against Dartmouth, however, both the late start — kickoff was pushed back due to the men’s double overtime — and the fact that the Elis were coming off the heels of a win over Harvard led Yale to struggle against a prepared but inferior Dartmouth team.
The Big Green matched the Bulldogs’ formation, making every possession a one-on-one battle. Yale’s 3–5–2 formation normally allows the team to overload the midfield, but with Dartmouth shutting down passing lanes, the Elis looked jittery in possession and rudderless in attack. Although they eventually won, overtime was not in the plans.
“We are obviously looking to win again, hopefully with a little better play than today,” Noelle Higginson ’20 said. “But honestly if we play well or not, as long as we get the win, I’m happy.”
The most devastating effect of the Big Green’s marking was that Higginson could not get the ball in midfield. Head coach Rudy Meredith remedied this problem by dropping Higginson into a deeper position, though not until late in the second half. While Yale and Cornell have had very different seasons in terms of on-field success, the Dartmouth game showed that with good tactics and game plan, underdogs can still pose a threat.
Columbia’s visit to Princeton this weekend pits the only perfect teams left in the league against each other. With Yale sitting three points back of both, a win against Cornell can bring the Elis as high as second, depending on the outcome of the game.
The Cornell fixture pushes the conference schedule into the second half of the season, and with Yale’s match against the Lions on the horizon, a loss against the Big Red could push Yale out of contention for the Ivy League title.
“We have to keep it going, we have to keep winning and keep the intensity up,” coach Meredith said. “[The Dartmouth match] wasn’t the prettiest game, but we won, and sometimes you have to win ugly. We have to keep fighting and working hard in practice this week, and hopefully we can get another result [against Cornell] next week.”
Yale will host Cornell at Reese Stadium this Saturday at 2 p.m.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org