Courtesy of Don Clark

A Yale women’s soccer team that finished the 2017 campaign with an impressive 11–4–2 (4–2–1 Ivy) record entered August with hopes of an even better 2018 season. Instead, the Bulldogs finished this year with a disappointing 7–9–1 (1–6) overall record and are now without a head coach after Rudy Meredith’s resignation on Nov. 15.

Yale owned losing records in 2015 and 2016. But in 2017, the Bulldogs had their first season with double-digit wins since 2009 and held their highest league position, third, since 2011. Unfortunately for the Elis, a large list of injuries combined with the loss of influential seniors from the previous year proved to be too big of a mountain to climb. Former captain Carlin Hudson ’18 moved on to play in the National Women’s Soccer League. Current captain and defender Brittany Simpson ’19 suffered a lengthy spell on the sidelines alongside the team’s main goal-scoring threat, striker Michelle Alozie ’19. Constant roster shuffling was a continuous theme throughout the season.

“This year’s [injury] list was the biggest I’ve had in my 24 years at Yale,” Meredith said after the end of the season. “You can’t play if you’re not healthy.”

Non-conference play was nevertheless encouraging. After a 1–2 start in August, the Bulldogs enjoyed a five-game undefeated streak prior to late September’s Ivy League match against Princeton. This stretch included a four-game winning run, the last three of which were at the newly-turfed Reese Stadium, which the team had only practiced on two times prior to the Bulldogs’ home opener against Marist.

In the first month of the season, a new duo of strikers Saje Brar ’22 and Aerial Chavarin ’20 and midfielder Noelle Higginson ’20 shouldered much of the goal-scoring burden with ease, following the injury of Alozie. Prior to Ivy game play, they scored eight goals combined -– five of which came in the final three games of non-Ivy play. At the time, defender Kristen Enriquez ’21 noted that the team was starting to settle into a good rhythm before conference play began.

The steady flow of goals masked the team’s inefficiency at converting shooting opportunities. The Elis saw many of their chances fall by the wayside, with 16 of 24 attempts off-target in their final non-conference game against Robert Morris alone.

The transition to Ivy play saw converting goal chances become a real issue for the team. The Bulldogs failed to score a single goal in their first three conference games against Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth. Though the Elis enjoyed plenty of chances, they failed to find an end product. When Yale finally won its sole Ivy victory, it was a narrow 1–0 game against a Cornell side that had not won since its first match of the season.

“We are creating a decent number of chances per game,” Chavarin said after the Harvard fixture. “In order to capitalize on these chances, we need to have focus and composure every time we are around the goal. Definitely easier said than done, but if we focus on having that composure around the goal … I think we can convert our offensive chances in games.”

The Blue and White came through with that philosophy with a 6–2 drubbing on the road against Delaware State. Five players got on the score sheet that day, with Brar netting twice. The Elis also had 14 of its 16 shots on target.

Yale did put up an impressive showing against eventual conference-winning Penn, losing 2–1 after conceding a goal with under 10 minutes to go. But this brief uptick in form did not last. Yale slid towards the end of the season with a four-game losing streak and failed to find the back of the net in its last three games as further injuries mounted.

“Mentally it is always difficult to bounce back after watching your teammates get helped off the field,” goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said after Yale’s last game of the season. “Our team faced incredible adversity this season, and it was definitely reflected in our results.”

The Elis now have nine months to recuperate before the 2019 season, which begins in late August next year. In the meantime, the team also needs to find a new coach.

However, with first-team All-Ivy Higginson and second-team All-Ivy Chavarin returning next fall, the squad has leaders and building blocks in place to rebound after this injury-plagued campaign.

“The team looks great for next year in terms of potential because the team does not have too many graduating seniors, so the players on the team will all be familiar with each other in terms of style of play and work ethic,” striker Ciara Ostrander ’21 said.

The Yale women’s soccer program began in 1977.

Bill Gallagher |