At full time, the Yale women’s soccer team dropped to its knees after struggling to an exasperating 0–0 draw with Cornell.
The Elis (8–3–2, 2–1–1 Ivy) huffed and puffed for 110 minutes but could not turn their most dominant display this season — against an ultra-defensive Cornell (2–6–3, 0–2–2) team — into a win. A victory would have lifted Yale to second in the table, tied with No. 11 Princeton, which suffered a shock loss to Columbia, but the draw leaves the Lions standing alone in first. Now, even a win against Columbia in a few weeks would not put the Bulldogs into first without help.
“The game was very frustrating, especially coming from a defender’s perspective,” defender Brittany Simpson ’19 said. “Looking back at the game, we had something like 28 shots to their five, so it’s just so frustrating because what else could we have done better? Getting shots on goal for sure, but we deserved to win the game because we were the better team.”
The Big Red took a different approach to the game than Dartmouth. Rather than trying to compete with Yale, Cornell sat deep in its own half in two banks of four and five. Striker Paige DeLoach seemed like a vestigial structure, on the field more as a formality than because she had a function in the team.
Undeterred, the Bulldogs attacked strongly in the first seven minutes until an injury to the referee caused an unusual stoppage in play. As the half wore on, Yale continued to dominate proceedings. Midfielder Reina Bonta ’21 often recovered possession in the midfield and either kept control of the ball or knocked Cornell off balance with driving runs from deep.
At halftime, the Elis had taken nine shots to the Big Red’s one, but Cornell showed so much deference to Yale that the Bulldogs found it hard to play with a killer intensity. Starting from the back, goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 and the backline had a few uncharacteristic moments of miscommunication. In midfield, the wide players sent crosses into the box, but no strikers were there to meet the balls. Meanwhile, when the strikers had the ball, they often resorted to low-percentage shots from distance rather than seeking to involve other teammates in the build-up play.
Disappointed in the quality of chances his team had created, head coach Rudy Meredith made a series of substitutions in the first half in an effort to coax a high-quality opportunity out of the team. A pair of substitutes, midfielder Sarah Jordan ’21 and forward Lydia Shaw ’21, helped connect the team more, but, when the halftime whistle sounded, the teams remained stuck at 0–0.
“We didn’t take the highest percentage of chances,” Meredith said. “We have to make some adjustments when we are missing the goal like that. [Cornell] got a little bit fortunate, a couple deflections, so it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t score.
At the beginning of the second half, Cornell almost gifted Yale a goal when a whiffed clearance let the ball fall to the foot of forward Michelle Alozie ’19, who couldn’t react fast enough to steer the it home. As the game continued, Alozie and striker Aerial Chavarin ’20 began to craft more and more chances for themselves. At one point, Alozie ran half the field before driving a low shot toward goal. Cornell goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy saved the shot, but Chavarin could not convert the rebound.
As the strikers took more of the attacking burden on themselves, the Elis’ shape began to loosen, and the balance of play began to slip back toward the Yale net. With frustration creeping in, the Bulldogs’ chemistry weakened, and their attacking plays became increasingly disjointed. The Big Red seemed satisfied to keep booting the ball long rather than stringing passes together.
Yale finished regulation with 22 shots. However, as full time neared, the team tried to force the ball, resulting in more low-quality opportunities.
In overtime, the best chance of the game fell to Chavarin in the 96th minute after Alozie sent a perfectly weighted through ball past the Cornell backline. Electing not to take a touch, Chavarin sliced the ball wide with just the keeper to beat. In the 109th minute, Alozie herself had her own chance to end the game, but she also shot wide. Together, the strikers finished the game with 13 total shots, but only three on target.
“It’s kind of how soccer is sometimes, which is really unfortunate,” Alozie said. “We had a lot of opportunities to put the game away, and we just kept missing the frame. It is just something that we need to work on throughout practices this week.”
Yale’s inefficiency and failure to convert against the statistically worst team in the league may have doomed its title push. In failing to beat Cornell, the Bulldogs now need to beat leaders Columbia and hope that both No. 11 Princeton and the Lions drop points in another game. With only three games left in the season, time is running out.
The Elis are tied for third in the Ivy League with seven points from four games.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org