In front of a deafening crowd at Reese Stadium, the Yale men’s soccer team proved its credentials Friday night, blowing Harvard away in a 3–1 victory. The result marked the team’s sixth consecutive win and their longest streak in 21 years.
Friday’s victory was the first time that the Bulldogs (6–0–2, 1–0–0 Ivy) have defeated the Crimson (0–5–1, 0–0–1 Ivy) since 2013 and featured their biggest margin of victory in over a decade. In a derby where emotions were running high, calm and collected heads were needed to secure victory. It was the team’s younger players who delivered with first-year defender Siggy Árnason ’23 scoring the first and final goals, either side of sophomore midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22, who struck the net for the second game in a row.
“It feels amazing to score against Harvard and it’s definitely one of the best moments of my life,” Árnason said. “We are of course happy with this win streak but our focus now is to keep extending it and think about the next game against Dartmouth. We have to keep pushing and improving if we want it to mean anything in the end, with more than half the season left to play.”
The Elis’ opening game in the Ivy League was billed to be an exciting one, pitching two fierce rivals against one another. Yale wasted no time in living up to the anticipation, asserting themselves right from the kickoff. Their early pressure paid off when just two minutes in, defender John Leisman ’20 sent a looping cross into the box for Árnason to expertly head the ball past a helpless Harvard goalie.
Harvard tied the game in the 20th minute when opposing forward Duncan Sutherland netted his second goal of the season. Sutherland tapped in the rebound after forward Nico Garcia-Morillo’s shot was deflected off the post.
However, this proved to be only a brief respite for the Crimson. After a series of four shots and three corners for Yale, Okpoye put the team back on top in the 35th minute. Midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 whipped a corner to the far post for defender Jeremy Haddock ’22 to knock back toward the goal before Okpoye smashed a volley high into the net. It was a beautifully crafted corner culminating in the midfielder’s second career goal for Yale, with his first scored earlier in the week against Central Connecticut State.
Yale closed out a dominating first half with 11 shots to Harvard’s three. The narrative continued in the second half, with the Crimson unable to find an answer to the Elis’ numerous attacks. The home crowd rallied in support of the Elis as the storied rivals continued to duel.
The momentum from the first half did not falter and the Bulldogs were eventually rewarded for their efforts with Árnason’s second goal of the game in the final four minutes of play.
Midfielder and captain Miguel Yuste ’20 dribbled down the center of the field, before laying a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Árnason, who rifled a shot in from 20 yards out, securing the win for the Elis.
“Nothing we did tonight was individual. It’s a collective effort, and I’m so glad we got the result we did tonight,” Okpoye said after the game. “We haven’t had a team this good in more than a decade so we’re just focused on moving on to the next thing.”
The heated contest extended the team’s winning streak to six straight victories, the most since the 1998 roster off their season with six straight victories. In addition, Yale is now unbeaten after eight games for the first time since 1952. This 1–0 lead in the Ancient Eight only serves to underscore an already historic campaign for the Bulldogs.
As the team looks ahead to the rest of the season, it is currently the only Ivy League team ranked in this week’s Top 30 College Soccer News Poll at No. 28.
“Our seniors had never beaten Harvard, so this is a special moment for them, but that being said, I think our performance overall was dominating,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “We’re going to keep things going as is. Our thing is being confident, consistent, relentless, self-less and passionate and just getting better a little bit each day. There are things that we’ll learn from this game and then [we’ll] get ready for Dartmouth so that’s the only one we’re worried about right now.”
The Bulldogs will host Dartmouth in their second conference game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Reese Stadium.
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