Courtesy of Steve Musco

The rising Yale men’s soccer team finished its season fifth in the Ivy League and earned a winning record overall for the first time in seven years.

The Bulldogs (7–6–3, 2–3–2 Ivy) finished their season in early November after over three months of training and competition. The Elis experienced their fair share of ups and downs throughout the campaign, but emerged successful with a winning record for the first time since 2011. While the Elis finished fifth in the Ancient Eight, ahead of Penn, Brown and Harvard, the team desires to continue its upward trajectory and rise to the top of the league in the coming years.

“It’s great to see some progress, but we didn’t achieve our goal of winning the Ivy League,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “So that is going to be our drive and motivation for the off-season. We have certainly closed the gap, but there is still a lot of work ahead.”

Breakthroughs and setbacks defined the season. The Elis’ opening road trip to Washington, D.C. was nearly cancelled as a storm ravaged the area. While the match against Howard was ultimately cancelled, the team found some light-hearted fun in D.C. as they resorted to rock-paper-scissors to decide the victor — a notable moment of reprieve in a long and grueling season.

Certain matches proved crucial to the team’s momentum throughout the season. A major turning point for the Elis came in their match against then-No. 4 Michigan St. The 2–2 overtime tie at home against Stannard’s old team was a huge upset and gave considerable momentum to the Bulldogs, who went on to win their next three games.

“Our game against Michigan State will always be one of the most memorable moments of my career,” defender and captain Cameron Riach ’19 said. “It was an amazing experience playing against such a highly ranked opponent for our first game under the lights on the new turf at Reese. We had an incredible turnout that night. It was an amazing game to play in.”

After stringing together three non-conference wins, the Elis began Ivy League play with the historic Yale-Harvard match, played this year in Cambridge. Unfortunately, Yale succumbed to the Crimson in enemy territory after a second half goal put the Elis down by one, snapping Yale’s winning streak.

Against the rest of the Ancient Eight, the Elis fared in the middle of the pack, finishing with a 2–3–2 record. Still, Yale’s two victories were against Cornell and Princeton, who were both leading the league at the time the Bulldogs played them. The 2–1 overtime victory against Cornell revived the Elis’ momentum, but it was short-lived as a goal in the final 10 minutes of the Penn game stripped the Elis of what would have been a win. They settled for a 1–1 tie at Reese Field. The Elis went on to lose against Columbia and Brown but finished the season on a high note with a decisive victory over the 2018 League Champions, Princeton, at home.

While the Bulldogs finished fifth in the League, they performed well under pressure, beating or tying three of the four teams that finished ahead of them. It was losses and ties against the rest of the league that set Yale back.

“I thought we did well getting up for the big games overall,” Stannard said. “But we need to have a better mentality and level of consistency against certain other teams. Consistency at a high level is the true mark of the top teams, and that’s what we still need [to] improve. Our guys should be confident against anyone we play now, but we need to bring a little more edge and grit on a daily basis to help us win the games when we aren’t as sharp in other areas.”

Several Elis have been recognized for their outstanding performances on and off the field this year. Midfielder Nicky Downs ’19 received first-team All-Ivy honors, marking his third season earning All-Ivy recognition. Riach and rookie forward Paolo Carroll ’22 made it onto the All-Ivy Second Team. In addition, defender Justin Lobe ’20 claimed an Honorable Mention.

Carroll also earned himself Ivy League Rookie of the Week four times this year, with five goals and five assists. Seniors Downs and forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 were named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District First Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

“I am happy to have been able to end my Yale soccer career with the All-Ivy recognition,” Riach said. “But [I] am more proud of how we ended the season with a win against the Ivy Champs, Princeton, at home. We have a very talented team, so I am sure the team will receive even more All-Ivy recognition in the coming years.”

This season was the closing act for Yale’s nine seniors — goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19, defender Riach, midfielder James Kochanski ’19, midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19, forward Kenagy, midfielder Downs, midfielder An Le ’19, forward Robert Mooney ’19 and goalkeeper Allec Willis ’19. The class was the first to play all four seasons under Stannard and have been important leaders on the field. Riach and Downs started all 16 games this season, and Downs finished his career with 15 assists and nine goals, tallying 13 points in his senior season. Kenagy was also a vital member of the senior class, finishing his career with 10 goals and six assists.

However, the Elis will return a veteran squad next fall. While young, most of their key players, including sophomore goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21, Carroll, Miguel Yuste ’20 and the rest of the Elis, will be sure to make an impact in the league next year.

“There are too many guys to mention that play such critically important roles on the team that are not regular contributors on the field,” Stannard said. “But those guys are so important to the culture and team success. I’d say the entire senior class played a massive role in helping get this program back to winning ways. I can’t thank them enough.”

Cate Sawkins | cate.sawkins@yale.edu