The Yale women’s soccer team is at a critical juncture in its 2018 campaign. Coming off their worst defeat of the season so far, a 3–0 home loss to defending Ivy champion No. 21 Princeton, the Bulldogs will next face the Crimson in Cambridge on Saturday.
After impressive performances in the buildup to the conference opener this past weekend, the Elis (5–3–1, 0–1 Ivy League) struggled to keep the momentum going. An opening goal just 20 seconds before halftime by star Tiger striker Mimi Asom sapped what was an otherwise positive showing from the home side. The second half only further drained morale as the Bulldogs conceded two more goals.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “Giving up a goal with 20 seconds left in the half was demoralizing. We need to take positives from the performance.”
The game against the only nationally ranked squad in the Ivy League was one of many crossroads the Bulldogs have faced. Yale has been forced to cope with major injuries to key players this fall. Both captain Brittany Simpson ’19 and last season’s top goalscorer, striker Michelle Alozie ’19, suffered season-ending injuries.
On account of the several injuries, less experienced players have been drafted into the starting eleven. Striker Saje Brar ’22 replaced Alozie in attack and the whole team is reaping the benefits of the rookie’s increased time on the field. The first year out of Surrey, British Columbia has already found the back of the net two times this season and assisted four other goals.
“Tactically, I think our coaches are doing a good job searching for a formation and lineup that will bring us the most success,” goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said. “In the last couple of games we have been unlucky when it comes to finishing. Aside from shooting, practices this week are centered around making sure everybody is confident on the ball, regardless of where they are playing on the field. To come away with a victory this weekend would change our entire season and I am so excited for us to go out there and put on a show.”
Shifting lineups this season have contributed to the team’s success. The trio of Brar, midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 and striker Aerial Chavarin ’20 as the team’s main attacking force has already collectively clocked eight goals. Prior to the Princeton game, the Bulldogs enjoyed a four-game win streak.
Midfielders Sarah Jordan ’21 and Reina Bonta ’21, both of whom provided major contributions to last year’s winning campaign, could also see significant playing time. The two sophomores are coming back from injury and hope to return to full availability soon after being sidelined for a month.
“Obviously we didn’t score [against Princeton],” Meredith said. “We might change offensively and we might change defensively. Maybe we’ll see some personnel changes.”
But the Elis must first rally against Harvard this weekend on the road.
Although the Crimson lay claim to a mildly disappointing record of 3–4–1 for the season, the Bulldogs will not be in for an easy match, considering Yale has not won on Harvard’s home turf since 2006.
“We need people to push each other for playtime and remind each other that this season is far from over,” Fagel said.
Yale plays Harvard this Saturday at 7 p.m.
Billy Gallagher | firstname.lastname@example.org .