The Yale women’s soccer team stormed to six consecutive wins to open the season, before suffering a demoralizing 7–0 loss against now-No. 1 Stanford. That defeat sent the Bulldogs back east with some important lessons but also marked a shift in their offensive play from the fluid combinations of the opening games to a more inconsistent attack, reliant on occasional sparks of inspiration to find the back of the net.
Since returning from California, Yale (8–3–2, 2–2–1 Ivy) has struggled to churn out high-quality scoring chances, aside from an irresistable final quarter of an hour in the demolition of Harvard. It limped to a 1–1 draw with Colorado College before firing blanks against both the University of Massachusetts and No. 11 Princeton.
“Once we lost to Stanford, we got into a bit of a rut,” captain and defender Carlin Hudson ’18 said. “We are still playing good soccer, but it is just a matter of getting the ball in the back of the net and reaping the benefits of the soccer we are playing.
In the six games before the matchup with the Cardinal, the Elis netted 14 goals. And that offensive verve was not just a result of fixtures against weaker teams: Yale’s opponents in that stretch included then-No. 21 UConn and a talented Miami (FL.) team. Since the shellacking at the hands of the most talented team in the country, however, the Yale’s engine has sputtered up front.
The subsequent six games have seen the Bulldogs ripple the net on just six occasions, and half of those goals came in the decisive victory over Harvard. The goal drought has been felt across the Yale frontline. Forward Aerial Chavarin ’20 has found the net only once this season after scoring nine times a year ago, while this year’s top scorer, forward Michelle Alozie ’19, has continued to amass prodigious shot totals with steadily diminishing returns. The first-year forwards who found the scoresheet early in the year have struggled to replicate that success, and the midfielders and defenders have been unable to pick up the goalscoring slack.
“Our wins came before classes started, but as we prepared for Ivy League play, schoolwork started to ramp up,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “Around the time of the Stanford game, people started to become mentally and physically tired. We began to have a little bit of trouble scoring goals.”
The Harvard game represented a significant alteration from the staid pattern of attacking play. The 3–0 scoreline flattered the Crimson after a series of vibrant attacking moves from the Yale frontline cut the opposition’s backline to ribbons. It didn’t herald a return to the early-season freedom, however, as the Elis failed to translate their monopolization of possession into high-quality opportunities in the subsequent two games against a pair of struggling sides in Dartmouth and Cornell.
An overtime winner from Chavarin, last season’s leading scorer, spared Yale’s blushes against a plucky Dartmouth team, but no one stepped up to bail the Bulldogs out against Cornell. The Ancient Eight bottom feeders showed no attacking initiative, preferring to focus on their defensive solidity, and returned to Ithaca with a point as their reward.
Yale spent the entire game camped in the Cornell end, firing 28 shots, but many of them were speculative efforts that ignored teammates in better positions. Only eight efforts out of the 28-shot barrage forced Big Red netminder Meghan Kennedy into saves. Although Cornell mustered a mere five shots, they matched Yale’s zero-goal total, all but dashing the Elis’ title hopes.
“This week we will focus on finishing,” midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 said. “If you are creating chances, you should be scoring. It’s encouraging that we can create that many chances, but, obviously, I would rather create one chance and score than create 28 chances and tie.”
The disappointing draw leaves Yale five points adrift of league-leading Columbia, with a tricky away trip to the Lions still to come, along with outings at Penn and Brown. The Bulldogs have already played the three bottom teams in the table and looked convincing only against Harvard.
The Elis face Howard on Wednesday with an opportunity to rediscover their goalscoring form before resuming Ivy play. The Bison enter on a three-game winning streak but have conceded five goals in those victories, so the chances will be there if the Bulldogs can seize them.
On Sunday, Yale will face a Penn team that has already accumulated seven points and sits tied for third with the Bulldogs. The Quakers entered conference play with a 2–5–2 record but have since gone 2–1–1 in the Ivy league.
Penn has the second-best defense in the league but has scored just seven times this season. The Eli defense is more than capable of taming the Quaker offense, but unless Yale can put the ball in the back of the net, the fixture could turn into a stalemate. If Columbia wins this weekend and the Bulldogs do not, Yale will be mathematically eliminated from the Ivy League title race.
“It’s never fun to have to rely on another team for you to do well and not just your ability to play,” Higginson said. “We just have to move on, win the rest of the games and give ourselves a chance.”
The Bulldogs take on Howard at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
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