The Yale men’s soccer team beat Columbia and took its points tally to 12 last Saturday to move one step closer to the elusive Ivy League title. Now, the Bulldogs are gearing up to take on Brown this Saturday in what will be the final home game of the season and the last game at Reese Stadium for their seniors.
Although the Bulldogs suffered a painful 1–0 loss in the same fixture last season, the Elis (11–2–2, 4–1–0 Ivy) are optimistic in their attempt to defeat the Bears for the first time since 2008. The Bears (3–8–4, 1–1–3 Ivy) have suffered poor results so far in their 2019 campaign. They have only won twice in their last 10 games, and have failed to win their last two conference games against Pennsylvania and Cornell. In comparison, the Bulldogs have been breaking all expectations this year. They have taken the scalps of Harvard, Dartmouth and the Big Red, while agonizingly losing to defending NCAA champions Maryland and Penn in overtime. The team is now within touching distance of the Ancient Eight crown — something that seemed unlikely at the beginning of this campaign, when Yale was ranked fifth in the Ivy League preseason poll.
“From the beginning of the season, our goal has been to win an Ivy League title and to play in the NCAA tournament,” senior captain Miguel Yuste ’20 said. “While the win against Columbia last weekend was a great step towards that, we have not achieved anything yet. Taking it one game at a time and staying true to our core values are essential in this program. We have two finals left with all eyes on Brown next Saturday.”
Last season’s Yale-Brown fixture was a lesson in taking chances, with the Elis narrowly losing by one goal, despite having 12 shots to the Bears’ five. Opportunities came with efforts from midfielders Yuste, Ryan Matteo ’20 and Mark Winhoffer ’21. However, in the 29th minute, forward Tony Howell struck past goalkeeper Elian Haddock ’22 with the outside of his foot, after a crisp combination play between Matthew Chow and Derek Waleffe, to win the game.
The Bulldogs are looking for a different result this year, with multiple players in top form. Haddock ranks 10th nationally with a .640 goals-against average and boasts a .804 save percentage, good for 17th in the country for that statistic. Meanwhile, Winhoffer is top of the Ancient Eight in assists with 10 — double the number made by second-placed Ryan Clare of Princeton. Adding onto that, Yuste has scored seven goals, tied for first in the Ivy League with Princeton’s Walker Gillepsie, although the Yale captain has played a game less.
“One of our main philosophies as a program is to treat every game as though it were the last game,” defender Jake Schaffer ’23 said. “We didn’t do anything special to prepare for this game. We’ve just been following the same process that we’ve always done this season. The team, and the seniors especially, are looking forward to the game against Brown.”
The Bears have struggled to break through this season, at one point racking up an eight-game streak without a single win. But Brown managed to emerge from this rough patch with a dominating 3–0 performance against Harvard, who the Bulldogs also defeated 3–1. Nevertheless, the Harvard win failed to rally the season for the Bears, as they subsequently lost to Holy Cross in overtime and came away with 1–1 ties against Cornell and Penn.
Since defeating the Crimson, Brown has achieved a single victory against UMass Lowell with a lone goal midway through the second half. However, despite the Bears’ weak campaign this year, this matchup against Brown has not come easy for Yale in past seasons — the Bulldogs have not defeated Brown in over a decade. Overturning Yale’s record in this fixture would be an important accomplishment, especially for the team’s upperclassmen.
It will be an emotional day for the team’s seniors, as the Elis play their final home game of the 2019 season. There are currently eight seniors in the squad who will be waving goodbye to Reese Stadium on Saturday afternoon. However, they will be determined to make sure that their bow-out doesn’t end in heartbreak, with Brown standing in the way of Yale’s sixth Ivy league title since 1955, before the season finale against Princeton.
“Because it is my final home Ivy game and my family will be in attendance for senior night, the Brown game feels special,” defender John Leisman ’20 said. “That said, I’ve had this sort of last chance feeling since the onset of the season so every game, every moment feels important and I’m sure my senior teammates feel the same. Most of all, the Brown game is crucial because it can bring us one step closer to winning the Ivy League title and keeping the season going in the NCAA tournament.”
The Bulldogs play against Brown this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. for their final game at Reese Stadium.
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