After beginning the 2017 season with a six-game win streak, the Yale women’s soccer team has been unable to replicate that hot start this year, in part due to a raft of injuries.
Captain Brittany Simpson ’19 tore her Achilles and is out for the season. Joining her on the sidelines is defender Fallon Sheridan ’19; midfielders Sarah Jordan ’21 and Reina Bonta ’21; and first years Alexandra Otterstrom ’22 and Emily Clorite ’22. This score of injuries has forced head coach Rudy Meredith to innovate on the field as he looks to minimize the effect of these losses.
“It has been tough because we are not as deep as we should be right now,” Meredith said. “Early in the season, we are rotating more, but to our credit we have handled it pretty well so far. … We have changed our formation at least four or five times this season. It’s more than I would like, but I’m confident in this team.”
Simpson’s injury, in particular, has been a catalyst for these formation and lineup changes. One of the strengths of the 2017–18 team was its consistent defense. Marshaled by former captain Carlin Hudson ’18, the defense kept seven clean sheets, including three in conference play against Harvard, Columbia and Brown. Without Simpson — who along with Hudson, Mackenzie Marsh ’19 and Hannah Coy ’18 — formed the core of that defense, the current back line lacks the experience and leadership of last year’s team.
In response, Meredith has toyed with playing defensive midfielder Fran Steele ’19 at center back as well as expanding the role of Christine Oberhausen ’21, who was one of the first defenders off the bench last year. Kristen Enriquez ’21 has also seen her minutes swell — she has already played four games this year after playing just one last season — and while Marsh has begun to shoulder the leadership role, the defense was shaky in the Elis’ most recent game, a 1–1 draw with Colgate.
“Britt’s injury has definitely been the hardest to overcome. She is an incredible player, and her leadership is second to none,” goaltender Alyssa Fagel ’20 said. “But Mackenzie Marsh and Fran Steele, the two other senior defenders, have really stepped it up, and their willingness to fill that leadership role on the field has greatly helped the entire team.”
While the injuries have affected the Bulldogs’ performance on the field this year, the expanded opportunities to get minutes for younger players can only help the team down the line. On another bright note for the Elis, Jordan, Bonta and Fallon are expected to be ready for Yale’s Ivy League opener against Princeton on Sept. 22, giving the team ample time to get settled.
In the meantime, the Bulldogs turn to Fordham on Thursday in the hopes of claiming their first win since they beat Howard in August. The Rams recently snapped a four-game losing streak but have already lost to fellow Ivy League competitor Columbia. This fixture continues what has been a busy week for Yale, after a Labor Day contest against Colgate. The Fordham game provides just another opportunity for the Elis to continue to experiment and develop in these early, nonconference matches.
“It’s exciting to see the younger players stepping up to fill the starting roles and becoming more experienced with each game,” Simpson said.
Yale finished third in the Ivy League last season.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org