Caleb Rhodes

On Sept. 1, 2017 at 2:42 a.m., my first Yale Daily News story went up on the News’ website. Former sports editor Chris Bracken ’19 and I wrote a preview of an upcoming game for the women’s soccer team against the University of Miami.

It was a surreal moment to be able to cover the sport that I love at a new school. As a first year, I identified with every up and down the team had that fall. I felt elated as the team strung together six wins in a row to start the year, utter disappointment as Stanford batted us around in a 7–0 thrashing and pride when the Elis ended the season with two huge conference wins over Columbia and Brown to secure third place in the Ivy League.

Following a team closely naturally brings with it an emotional investment, and last fall was no different. I watched in anguish as the women’s soccer team disintegrated in front of me on the back of injuries, depleted morale and the imminent resignation of disgraced head coach Rudy Meredith. Those same final fixtures the Bulldogs had won so triumphantly only a year prior turned into 2–0 and 3–0 losses.

However, the men’s team brought me some respite. While the Elis finished fifth in the Ancient Eight with an even 2–3–2 conference record, their season contained flashes of brilliance that shocked me out of my Yale soccer depression. In mid-September, the Bulldogs secured a stunning 2–2 draw with No. 4 Michigan State at home — the first game on Reese Stadium’s new turf as well. The season saw the rise of rookie forward Paolo Carroll ’22 to Second-Team All-Ivy status. It also saw the brilliance of midfielder Nicky Downs ’19, who now plays professionally for Hartford Athletic in the USL, and a jubilant end to the campaign with a 1–0 victory over league champions Princeton.

Nevertheless, the women’s soccer team rebounded spectacularly this fall, and the men too have grown into formidable opponents. The women are currently tied for second in the league with Harvard and only trail Brown in the table. They have won 11 games this year, including four on the bounce. The team averaged more than two goals a game and conceded less than one. They have combined veteran talent in Aerial Chavarin ’20, Noelle Higginson ’20, captain Alyssa Fagel ’20 and rookie Ellery Winkler ’23 with her offensive guile. They play with a united belief that is astounding given the tumult the team has faced in the last 12 months, a belief that didn’t exist even when the team was flying high in 2017.

Likewise, the men have blossomed in 2019. The Elis lead the Ivy League and own the Ancient Eight’s best offense –– in goals per game –– and defense while benefiting from the renewed focus of players like Mark Winhoffer ’21. They have risen as high as No. 24 in the national rankings and play with such swagger that the Bulldogs outshot defending national champion Maryland and only succumbed to a heartbreaking defeat in overtime. Last year’s game against the Spartans hinted at the promise of this team, and this year, Yale is not only fulfilling but also believing in its own potential.

My rollercoaster of experiences between anguish and happiness, joy and sorrow have now culminated to my own strong belief in these teams. I wait with bated breath to see just how far both of these squads can go.

 

Caleb Rhodes | caleb.rhodes@yale.edu