The Yale men’s soccer team honored nine seniors this Saturday at Reese Stadium in a 1–0 upset against league champions Princeton that secured the Elis’ first winning season since 2011.
The Bulldogs (7–6–3, 2–3–2 Ivy) served the Tigers (10–5–2, 5–1–1 Ivy) their only Ivy loss of the season to conclude this year’s campaign. A second-half goal off a corner kick by top scorer and forward Paolo Carroll ’22 put the Elis over the top and secured a winning season for Yale. The match was also senior day for Yale’s nine seniors, who were honored by friends and family before and after the game.
“It was a really special night sharing the field with the team for one last time,” captain Cameron Riach ’19 said. “I couldn’t be happier with how the guys approached the game and were focused on ending the season and the seniors’ careers on a high. I am excited to see what the team can accomplish next year as it’s such a talented group. The sky is the limit.”
Princeton proved to be a tough opponent coming into the match. The Tigers lead the league in shots and have conceded the fewest goals of any team in the Ancient Eight this season. Before kickoff, they led the Ivy League with 16 points and were undefeated in their prior eight games. About an hour before the game, Columbia lost to Cornell 2–1, meaning that Princeton would win the Ivy League regardless of the outcome of its match against Yale.
However, the Elis came to Reese ready to defend their field. Despite a losing Ivy season, the Elis have secured crucial outcomes against highly competitive teams throughout the season such as a 2–2 tie with then-No. 4 Michigan St. and a victory over then-league leader Cornell.
Yale started eight of their nine seniors to open the match. The Yale senior class — goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19, defender Riach, midfielder James Kochanski ’19, midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19, forward Kyle Kenagy ’19, midfielder Nicky Downs ’19, midfielder An Le ’19, forward Robert Mooney ’19 and goalkeeper Allec Willis ’19 — has proved vital to Yale’s growing success and was the first group to play all four years under head coach Kylie Stannard.
“They have been through some tough times but have remained very positive and resilient,” Stannard said. “I’m amazed at their determination to keep moving forward and getting better each year. It’s a true testament to them and shows their amazing commitment and character. They trusted and embraced the process, and they were rightfully rewarded with a very promising season.”
The first half saw an even battle against the Ivy foes as the two went shot-for-shot. The first shot on goal came from midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22 in the eighth minute after a series of plays in Princeton’s half of the field, including a free kick from Downs. A counterattack opportunity for the Tigers succeeded a foul in the Yale’s half of the field. However, the free kick came bouncing out of the box and the ensuing shot by Princeton’s Bryan Prudil was blocked by the Yale defense.
The half continued with the two teams going toe-to-toe. In the first half, the Tigers narrowly outshot the Elis five to four with each goalie making two saves to defend his net.
“We found a lot of success against Princeton by playing balls wide,” Kenagy said. “Coach Stannard prepared us well for this matchup, and it ended up paying off.”
However, the opening of the second half saw a Princeton surge, followed by a Bulldog retaliation. A great opportunity for the Elis came in the 48th minute. Yale possession in the attacking third with shots by Downs and forward Logan Sullivan ’22 put the pressure on the Tigers’ backline, which resulted in a corner kick for the Elis.
Downs took the kick and sent a soaring ball to the far post. An initial deflection bounced and found its way to Carroll in front of the net. Carroll’s strike swung over the Tigers’ goalkeeper and into the back of the net to put Yale on the scoreboard and up by one.
Despite Princeton’s efforts, the Elis’ lead would not budge as the Bulldogs backline held their ground, and goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21 tallied two more saves for a shutout. The final match of the season ended in sweet victory for Yale.
With the loss, Princeton just squeaks out the Ivy League title with 16 points, followed closely by Columbia with 15 and Dartmouth with 14. Yale finishes in fifth with eight points ahead of Penn, Brown and Harvard. Still, in becoming the only team to defeat this year’s champion, Yale showed its caliber as a team.
“We did fall short of our ultimate goal of winning the Ivy League but we did make further progress which is really promising,” Stannard said. “To say that Yale soccer is a winning program right now means a ton for our culture and should only motivate us more to take the program to another level next year. Our goal moving forward is to keep striving to be the best team in the league and to win the Ivy [championship].”
The concluding victory secured a winning season for the Bulldogs for the first time in Stannard’s tenure as head coach and the first time since 2011.
Cate Sawkins | email@example.com