After allowing Lafayette to steal an overtime victory earlier in the week, the Yale men’s soccer team established a one-goal lead in the first half against Cornell and rode it to victory on Saturday. With the victory, the team surpassed its win total from last season.
The Bulldogs (4–6–1, 1–1–1 Ivy) won 1–0 over the Big Red in their third conference game of the season. Cornell (6–4–2, 1–1–1) — a team that came into the contest unbeaten in its last six games — looked to extend its winning streak to three with a win under the lights at Reese Stadium.
“We’ve learned our lesson in previous games,” defender Cameron Riach ’19 said. “Especially when up 1–0, we seem to struggle to just control the game and realize that we can win this. I think you can tell that the program is on the up.”
Neither team took control of the game until Riach managed to score late in the first half, giving the Elis the lead. Conscious of its previous second-half woes, Yale fended off the rallying Big Red offense to close out the match and seal its fourth shutout of the season.
Both teams battled for a foothold in the first half hour of the game, as neither the Big Red nor the Bulldogs could maintain possession long enough to create a legitimate chance on net. However, set pieces were crucial for the Elis, and a long free kick into the box from midfielder Nicky Downs ’19 created a chance for Riach to put one away.
“It was an unbelievable ball by Nicky Downs,” Riach said. “He just had a great ball in, and then I noticed that their defenders they were out of it and didn’t realize that the ball was going to be going over their heads, so I just let it run, it bounced, and I thought I would just spank it to the back post.”
Yale went into the half edging Cornell in shots, 6–2, and with a one-goal lead. The momentum shifted in the second half as Cornell battled back and outshot the Bulldogs 5–3. However, the Elis dug in and fought until the final whistle, locking down George Pedlow and Tommy Hansan, the Big Red’s leading scorers this season. Both players finished with zeros in every major stat category.
The victory came without head coach Kylie Stannard, who was on administrative leave for the game but has since rejoined the team, according to Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Timothy Bennett. In an email to the News, Stannard did not respond to a question about his absence at the game.
“We were unlucky not to get another goal or two with the chances that were created but the team did a great job of closing the game out and limiting Cornell’s chances,” Stannard wrote. “It’s a big win, a deserved win, and it should be a good confidence booster.”
After the game, assistant coach T.J. Love said that “everyone that played even a minute” contributed to the victory.
“It kind of goes unseen with a few of the players like [Theo Miller ’18, Archie Kinnane ’18 and Josh Totte ’18],” he said. “They’re not glamorous players because they’re holding mid or defensive roles, but they cover so much ground defensively. Without those three guys on the field, we don’t win this game.”
Although the Bulldog defense was able to break up any Big Red opportunity, the Yale offense had some opportunities to extend its lead. A set piece at midfield by Downs almost resulted in another goal, as his shot grazed the inside triangle of the top-left corner, where the post and crossbar meet. The officials concluded that his long shot did not enter the goal, much to the dismay of the Yale fans in attendance.
So far this season, the Elis have struggled to score in the second half, aside from their match against Ivy League co-champion Dartmouth, a game in which the Bulldogs scored two goals in the second half to force a draw. Moving forward, Yale will look to capitalize on various opportunities to build bigger leads and prevent late-game comebacks.
“It’s just working on crossing and finishing and staying sharp, and eventually the chances will start to fall,” Downs said. “It’s just keeping your head down and keep going, and eventually they will start to fall.”
Yale will continue its conference conquest when it hits the road against Penn next Saturday.
Cristofer Zillo | firstname.lastname@example.org