A pair of victories this weekend marked three consecutive wins for the Yale men’s soccer team, its longest winning streak in over a decade.
The Bulldogs (4–2–1, 0–0–0 Ivy) faced off against George Mason (1–3–0, 0–0–0 Atlantic-10) and Fairleigh Dickinson (3–4–2, 0–0–0 NEC) as they continued their fall campaign. Yale followed a 2–1 win Friday night against the Patriots with a 1–0 victory against the Knights on Sunday with both matches exhibiting the newfound confidence of the Eli squad.
“We have some very good depth and experience on this team, and that has allowed us to get through this very demanding stretch,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “Our upperclassmen are doing a fantastic job of making sure everyone knows how important each game and opportunity is, and everyone has responded really well.”
Hundreds of people packed the stands at Reese Stadium on Friday to watch the Bulldogs take on out-of-state foe George Mason. Coming off two weeks without playing a game due to scheduling conflicts caused by Hurricane Florence, Mason was no match for the experienced Elis, whose tie against Michigan State last week proved instrumental in changing momentum for the team.
Yale dominated the play right from the start. An early goal from striker Paolo Carroll ’22 put the home team up 1–0. The sequence began with winger Nicky Downs ’19 passing to midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22, who was able to set up his classmate on the left side of the pitch. Paolo’s shot proved unstoppable for the Patriots’ goalkeeper, marking his third goal in his debut season.
The game would continue to be all Yale, with home fans soaking in the glory. Striker Aldo Quevedo ’21 raised the lead to a pair of goals just fifteen minutes into the second half. Midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19 dribbled the ball down the right side and sent a cross inside the box. Quevedo finished with a low, strong touch to nutmeg George Mason’s goalie and give the Elis some breathing room.
However, the Patriots would rebut. A late goal off a free kick put the away squad on the scoreboard, but their effort was not enough, and the Elis went back to the locker room with yet another win.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon, the Bulldogs brought the heat from their Friday night win into their match against the Knights. The Elis travelled to New Jersey, using their impressive defense to stretch their two-game winning streak into three. The match was also a homecoming for New Jersey native and goalkeeper Andrew Bortey ’20, who was given the start in net.
Quality midfield play early on made it seem inevitable that the Elis would eventually break through. Just four minutes into the game, a tough-nosed tackle by Quevedo sent the ball into the path of the white-hot Carroll, who easily placed a shot into the far corner of the net. The goal marked his third in as many games, an unbelievable run of form from Carroll, who has become a huge scoring asset for the Bulldogs.
“Coach Kylie gave us an excellent game plan and tactical approach in this matchup, and I think we did a great job of executing it,” Bortey said. “We got an early goal, which is always good since it puts the pressure on our opponents, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do”
However, the Knights hopped right back on the saddle and continued to press the Bulldogs. An acrobatic flip from a teammate in the 13th minute sent Fairleigh Dickinson’s Ideal Shefqeti on a spinning run through the Bulldog defense. Just as there seemed to be clear danger near the Eli goal, Downs tracked back nearly half the field to break up the play.
The 20th minute saw an errant Yale pass intercepted by the Knight’s speedy Ahu Obhakhan, and, suddenly, the Bulldogs seemed vulnerable once again. But John Leisman ’20 refused to concede the tying goal, putting in a crafty tackle that stifled the attempted cross and gave the Elis a chance to catch their breath.
Yale’s stellar defense in addition to two saves from Bortey in net helped the Bulldogs head into halftime with the lead. The Elis peppered the Fairleigh Dickinson goal in the first half, leading the home team in shots 6-2.
The defense continued to be the story for Yale, especially at the beginning of the second half. In the 51st minute, midfield stalwart Okpoye demonstrated his class with a slick back heel that almost triggered a Bulldog break.
Goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21 replaced Bortey in the tail end of the second half, capping off a terrific combined clean sheet for the junior back in his home state. Wallenstein saw the game out with little trouble as the Bulldogs cruised to victory.
“[Fairleigh Dickinson] was a tough game after a very intense 10 days in which we had four games,” Carroll said. “We were able to score early and successfully managed the game with possession and intelligent soccer decisions. Great momentum for the team going into our first Ivy League game against Harvard on Saturday. The team is eager and looking forward to starting conference play.”
There is no doubt Carroll has played a huge part in the Elis’ winning streak. As a three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, Carroll has already tallied 11 points in 2018. Yale, a previously low-scoring team, has found its chemistry in the frontline with veterans Kyle Kenagy ’19 and Downs also getting in on the scoring, with a combined four goals and four assists this season.
The Elis tackle their first conference match in enemy territory against the Crimson this Saturday at 4 p.m.
Cate Sawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eamonn Smith | email@example.com