Steve Musco

Riding a four-game winning streak, the Yale women’s soccer team faces No. 25 Princeton on Saturday in an Ivy League opener with major title implications.

While the Elis (5–2–1) lost this fixture last year, the respective circumstances of both the Bulldogs and Tigers are quite different this time around. At this point last year, Princeton (5–2–1) had won seven out of eight games and kept six clean sheets. This year, the Tigers will enter the match on the back of a loss and a tie. Meanwhile, Yale this year has built great momentum at home despite accumulating injuries — a stark contrast to the team’s murky form at this point last year.

“Ivies are a whole new challenge because the atmosphere is much more intense,” Noelle Higginson ’20 said. “Princeton is [25th] in the country right now, so they’ll obviously be a huge challenge. I think we are up to the task if we play with more intensity than we showed [against Robert Morris], buy into our formation and do our individual roles.”

Even though both teams’ recent records are the reverse of last year and the Bulldogs will be playing at home this time around, the Tigers still represent a formidable foe. First-team All-Ivy forward Mimi Asom, who scorched Yale in last season’s matchup, has gotten off to a blistering start this campaign, with six goals in just eight games. Although she is a volume shooter, having taken 36 shots this season and converting only 17 percent, Yale has conceded more than a goal a game on average this year. Moreover, no one in the Ivy League has had to make more saves than goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 in the young season.

Paired with Asom up front is fellow first-team All-Ivy forward Abby Givens, who has yet to enter the goals column but has dished out four assists to her teammates. The prospect of scoring against a potential title rival in Yale could bring her clinical edge back.

“Princeton is a very solid team,” Fagel said. “For us to walk away with a result, we’re going to need to be on top of our game. In the back, we need to be clean: Unlike a few of our recent opponents, Princeton will be able to capitalize on our mistakes.”

The Elis also face the Tigers with a different strategy compared to last year. Last year’s Bulldogs relied heavily on the abilities of then-junior forward Michelle Alozie ’19. The 2017 Ivy League co-Offensive Player of the Year scored nine conference goals, four of which were game winners. She was also one of only two players who started all 17 games. Alozie’s season-ending injury two weeks ago has forced coach Rudy Meredith to look elsewhere for goal-scoring production.

The trio of Aerial Chavarin ’20, Higginson and Saje Brar ’22 seem the most likely to shoulder the goal-scoring burden; they have combined for eight goals so far this season, five of which came in the last three games, starting with Yale’s first home game of the season on Sept. 9 against Marist.

“The team is starting to settle into a good rhythm before conference play, considering our record for the last four games,” defender Kristen Enriquez ’21 said. “We’re finding what is working for us this season with every game and practice.”

Despite the newfound chemistry of Chavarin, Higginson and Brar, the team is still looking to improve its finishing. This season, most of the Bulldogs’ shots on goal have been off target. In last Sunday’s game against Robert Morris, Yale had 24 attempts on the Colonials’ net, 16 of which missed the net. The Elis need to convert more of their chances to defeat the Ivy League’s strongest team this weekend.

The Bulldogs take on Princeton on Saturday at Reese Stadium at 4 p.m.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu

Caleb Rhodes | caleb.rhodes@yale.edu