Steve Musco

Following a tough loss against a talented Vermont team on Tuesday, the Bulldogs will return to Ivy play on Saturday as they take on No. 18 Cornell.

The Bulldogs (4–4–2, 0–1–1 Ivy) are looking to snatch their first conference victory this year against the Big Red (9–2–0, 2–0–0 Ivy). After a three-game win streak in mid-September, the Elis are without a win in their last three games, with only one goal in that stretch. Meanwhile, Cornell has been red-hot so far this season. The Ithacans are undefeated in Ivy play at this point and are riding a six-game winning streak into their matchup with Yale.

“Cornell is one of the hottest teams in the nation right now, and it’s always great to see Ivy League teams in the Top 25,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “Conference games are always big, but the fact that Cornell is leading the league and nationally ranked makes this even more exciting. We’ve done well against them the past couple of years, but each year is very different.”

This year’s matchup between the Bulldogs and the Big Red closely parallels last year’s game. A year ago, the Elis were winless in Ivy play and were faced with a dominant Cornell team looking to extend its winning streak to seven. This fall, Cornell is in the same position, and Yale is set to play spoiler once again. The game also pits captain Cameron Riach ’19 against his younger brother Murray for the second straight year.

In 2017, the fixture was a contentious affair, remaining goalless until the late stages of the second half. But in the 82nd minute, Riach, usually known for his defense prowess, blasted home a half volley from the long ball of Nicky Downs ’19. Riach’s first goal of the season snapped Cornell’s streak and gave the Bulldogs a crucial Ivy victory.

“This is an incredibly important game for us, and I know the guys are determined to give it everything that they’ve got,” Riach said. “I’ve been really looking forward to this game as I get to play against my brother for one last time. Hopefully, I can get on the score sheet again like last year.”

But prior to this contest, Yale has suffered some severe injury blows. Vital center back Will Emerson ’20 missed the Vermont game with an injury, and his status for the Cornell game is still unclear. The Bulldogs seemed to miss the presence of their towering defender, as Vermont lobbed high through balls over the Yale backline with relative ease on Tuesday. The second major injury was to midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22. The first-year midfielder has exhibited class and calm in the center of the field all season and was a huge loss for Tuesday’s game.

Cornell has seen massive amounts of success in their young season. They are tied with Columbia on the top of the Ivy standings but have posted a much better nonconference record than the Lions. One of the Big Red’s losses was a close defeat to Syracuse, who posted a win against then No. 1 Wake Forest this season. The other loss was to California State University, Northridge, who has beaten two top 25 teams this year.

In order to win against the Big Red, Yale needs to rediscover the scoring spark it found earlier this season. The Bulldogs are averaging a respectable 1.3 goals per game, but they started off the year with multiple scoring outbursts. Their 4–0 win versus Bryant marked the largest victory of Stannard’s tenure, and the Elis scored twice in the following game against Big Ten powerhouse, then No. 2 Michigan State.

The Bulldog’s defense has been solid throughout this season but will face a tough test against Cornell. The Big Red averages about two goals per game, led by Charles Touche and Emeka Eneli. Both have tallied six goals so far this season, an exceedingly impressive accomplishment for the first year, Eneli. He currently leads the Ivy League with 15 points — stemming from six goals and three assists.

Not to be outdone by the streaking strike force of Cornell, Downs and forward Paolo Carroll ’22 are still having excellent seasons for the Bulldogs. The senior midfielder and first-year striker are third and fourth in individual points. The Elis will require strong contributions from both of these dangerous players in order to secure a victory on Saturday. After finishing with goals in three straight games to end September, Carroll has not scored since and now looks to rediscover his blazing run of form from earlier this season.

Regardless, the goalkeepers on both ends of the pitch will have their hands full on Saturday. Thus far, netminders Tom Wallenstein ’21 and Ryan Shellow have had productive seasons for the Bulldogs and the Big Red respectively. Wallenstein has given up around a goal per game and has made 32 saves, while posting two crucial shutouts. Shellow, the junior Cornell keeper, averages nearly the same amount of goals as Wallenstein, but has stopped 40 shots to go along with three shutouts.

While the offense of the Bulldogs as a whole has slowed, forward Aldo Quevedo ’21 seems to be heating up. The sophomore striker did not register any points against Vermont but netted his second goal of the season against Dartmouth to go along with an assist this season. The Dallas native also knows how to put pressure on the opposing goalie. Quevedo has 14 shots already through the Elis’ 10 games.

“Cornell is a strong team, which will represent a tough challenge for us,” defender Justin Lobe ’20 said. “But we’re looking forward to bounce back after Vermont and hopefully get away with a win.”

The Bulldogs battle the Big Red at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Berman Field.

Eamonn Smith  | eamonn.smith@yale.edu