Courtest of Steve Musco

An underwhelming 0–3 start to conference play has the Yale women’s soccer team primed for redemption against Cornell this weekend in Ithaca. On Saturday, the Bulldogs will face off against a struggling Big Red team that arguably represents the Elis’ best chance of victory in their four remaining Ivy matchups.

Yale (5–5–1, 0–3–0 Ivy) has seen their 5–2–1 start to the season fall by the wayside since late September as they remain winless in conference play. Currently, the Bulldogs are tied for last place with Cornell (1–9–1, 0–3–0) who owns an unflattering Ivy record this season and has not tasted victory since opening day. This is an ideal opportunity for the Bulldogs to kick-start a winning run after seeing goals dry up as of late. Nevertheless, Yale must beware of its recent record against the Big Red, as they have failed to defeat the squad in three consecutive years.

“We’re trying to be more offensively minded — score first,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “This year’s senior class has never beaten Cornell. I’ve never gone four years without beating Cornell.”

Since the Big Red has history on their side, pressure will be on Yale’s offensive leaders to get a result. Midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 and striker Aerial Chavarin ’20, who have both scored three goals each so far this season, should aim to further their own personal tallies, as well as look to create opportunities for their teammates. Higginson leads the Elis with 11 points for the season, while Chavarin is third on the team with seven.

Saturday’s game is also an opportunity for other players to try to regain their old capabilities. Midfielder Sarah Jordan ’21, who has spent most of this year sidelined by injury, could use the match (health permitting) as a way to recapture last year’s form, when she was tied for fifth on the team in points. Striker Saje Brar ’22 should also use the game as an opportunity to convince coach Meredith that she is worthy of a starting position. The first year has been dropped to the bench for the last two games against Harvard and Dartmouth after getting on the scoreboard early in the season.

“Staying motivated for this upcoming game has not been an issue,” goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said. “Our first goal for this weekend is to get on the scoresheet. Once we get that first goal, we can get our confidence back and really push for that first Ivy win.”

Cornell is in a similar position to the Bulldogs, albeit with a more disappointing record. The Big Red’s top scorer this year is defender Kaili Gregory with two goals — ahead of main striker Kennedy Yearby, who has the solitary score of the season. Cornell has also only scored six goals this year, an average of 0.55 tallies a game. Yale has an average of 1.18 goals per game despite a stagnant offense during conference play which has failed to convert on promising chances.

If the Elis walk out of Ithaca with a win, they will capture the crucial momentum they need to tackle their five remaining games, including three in Ivy play. The Bulldogs have the potential to still finish the season on a promising note with several wins down the stretch. Furthermore, the team has already faced three of its most dangerous conference opponents in Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth. Only its upcoming game against Penn appears to be an uphill struggle, given Yale’s winning history against Columbia as well as Brown’s poor form in recent years. The ability to still salvage this season with a winning record would be an incredible achievement for a team that has been repeatedly marred by injuries throughout the year.

“This year I feel confident and comfortable on the field,” striker Ciara Ostrander ’21 said. “I am excited to see what this season has left for me and what the coming seasons will bring.”

Yale faces Cornell this Saturday in Ithaca at 1 p.m.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu