The Yale men’s soccer team continued its historic season on Saturday afternoon with a 2–0 shutout victory against Columbia, marking the first time that the Elis have won four conference games in a single season since 2011.
Saturday’s victory was also the first time that the Bulldogs (11–2–2, 4–1–0 Ivy) defeated Columbia (4–6–4, 1–2–2 Ivy) since 2009. In a fixture that has historically been tough for Yale, calmness and composure were required to clinch the victory. Although the Lions had a rocky season coming into the fixture, with only one win in their last five games, they were determined to put an end to their recent poor form. But the Elis refused to be complacent as they completely dominated their opponents and managed to achieve their sixth shutout of the season.
“We all had a really good feeling coming away from that game with three points, especially with a clean sheet,” goalkeeper Elian Haddock ’22 said. “Away games are uniquely challenging, so taking down Columbia after a hard-fought game on the road felt really good. Part of what has made our team so successful this season is our mindset and commitment to our process.”
Going into the second half of its Ivy League campaign, Yale was intent on getting the three points to maintain its position at the top of the table. As it has done throughout this 2019 campaign, the team asserted itself right from the kickoff. A resolute Lions defense, however, kept Yale at bay for the duration of the first half. Still, the Elis’ superiority was evident as they closed out the first 45 minutes with 10 shots to Columbia’s two.
Head coach Kylie Stannard made three changes going into the second half to try and get the all-important first goal. The substitutions of midfielder Aldo Quevedo ’21, forward Paolo Carroll ’22 and defender Sigfus Arnason ’23 into the game looked to turn Yale’s shooting lead into a result on the board. Columbia also made necessary changes at the half, leading to a more aggressive opening 20 minutes. There was a close call in the 62nd minute when opposing midfielder Uri Zeitz nearly broke through with a left-footed strike, but it was calmly saved by Haddock in the bottom corner.
Despite peppering the Columbia goal with numerous shots and creating many chances, it seemed as though Yale could not find the crucial breakthrough. However, as he has done time and again this year, influential playmaker Mark Winhoffer ’21 generated the creative spark to inspire the team. From the right side of the box, the number 10 floated a dangerous free kick to the edge of the six-yard box for midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22 to hammer a bullet header into the bottom corner. The play marked the fourth Ivy League game in which Winhoffer assisted, as well as Okpoye’s third winner of the season.
“It felt great to be able to help my team grab a crucial result in Ivy play,” Winhoffer said. “The team firmly believes in each other and the coaching staff. Embracing the process and being the hardest working team puts us in a great position to grab results.”
In a last-minute attempt to level the game, the Lions switched out defenders for extra attackers. But with only nine seconds left on the clock, it was the Elis who were back on the board. After a shot by midfielder and captain Miguel Yuste ’20 bounced off the post, Winhoffer tapped it in to seal the Lions’ fate.
Statistically, Yale made 22 shots to Columbia’s seven, with 11 shots on goal compared to the Lions’ two. The recent away wins against Columbia and Northeastern suggest the Bulldogs have made a full recovery after falling in overtime in the two previous games against Maryland and Penn.
This recent victory sees Yale maintain its place atop the Ivy League rankings with only a single loss in this year’s conference and 12 points earned overall. The team continues to be ranked No. 25 by College Soccer News. With only two games remaining in the season and one remaining home game, the Bulldogs are looking to close out the campaign as strong as they started and secure the Ancient Eight title.
“We’re very excited to play one more time at Reese next weekend — a particularly special night for our seniors,” Okpoye said. “The feeling around the team is very positive. We’re close to securing the Ivy League title, but we’re not quite there yet — there’s still work to be done. Both Brown and Princeton will be very good opponents … We’re going to focus on our process and enjoy the opportunity to compete as members of the Yale athletic family.”
The Elis face off against Brown this coming Saturday at 4:30 p.m. for their last game at Reese Stadium this year. They will play their final game of the season on Nov. 16 against Princeton.
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