As the final seconds ticked off the clock, crowds stormed the field at Reese Stadium on Saturday evening as the Yale men’s soccer team was crowned the 2019 Ivy League Champions.
The Elis clinched the title with a 2–0 shutout victory against Brown. The triumph marks the No. 22 Bulldogs’ first Ancient Eight crown since 2005 and their first outright crown since 1991.
Saturday’s victory also marked the first time that the Bulldogs (12–2–2, 5–1–0 Ivy) defeated Brown (3–9–4, 1–2–3 Ivy) since 2008. In a fixture that has historically been tough for Yale — and with an Ivy League title on the line — calmness and composure were required to clinch the victory. Although the Bears had a rocky season coming into the match, with only two wins in their previous ten games, the team was determined to put an end to their recent poor form and spoil Yale’s senior day. The Elis refused to be complacent, however, as they dominated their opponents and managed to achieve their seventh shutout of this groundbreaking season.
“The boys are buzzing. It was a well deserved title for a very special group,” Yale captain Miguel Yuste ’20 said. “All the work we have put in is paying off. Having achieved one of our goals, we do not stop here; we obviously want more. We want to finish strong in our last game of the regular season against Princeton next weekend. I could not have asked for a better senior day at Reese Stadium … [and clinching] the first outright Ivy League title since 1991, in front of family, friends and fans, is an unbelievable feeling. We speak about leaving the jersey in a better place than where we found it, and I think this group has achieved that. This is the first of many more titles to come for the program in the following years.”
Knowing that a win could potentially secure the team’s sixth title since 1955, the Bulldogs were solely focused on getting the three points to achieve their ultimate goal. As it has repeatedly done throughout this 2019 campaign, the team asserted itself right from the kick-off. The players refused to be stopped in their title pursuit, and in the 11th minute, midfield maestro Mark Winhoffer ’21 curled a brilliant free-kick into the left side of the Brown goal, marking the fifth Ivy League game this season in which Winhoffer has either scored or assisted.
The Elis’ superiority was evident as they closed out the first 45 minutes with six shots to Brown’s two.
The second half continued the same dominant narrative as the first half, with Yale continuing to create chances and coming close on multiple occasions. Shots from Yuste and defender Jeremy Haddock ’22 tested the Bears defence. Finally, in the 75th minute, the Elis found the back of the net again. Midfielder Ryan Matteo ’20 struck the post, with Enzo Okpoye ’22 scoring off the rebound. The Elis would hold off the Bears for the remainder of the game and successfully continued their undefeated home record this season.
Having commanded the game with 15 shots to Brown’s nine and five corners to three, the Bulldogs celebrated wildly at the full time whistle, having secured the elusive Ancient Eight crown.
“Winning the Ivy League at home was particularly special because it was the last guaranteed home game for our seniors, who’ve been instrumental to the team’s success this year,” Okpoye said. “As a central defender, I don’t get to be in scoring positions except on set pieces, so I have to be very clinical when I get a chance in front of [the] goal. Last night’s goal was no different than the ones I scored in previous games – it was the product of a concerted effort by the entire team. I’m just grateful to be the one who got to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Having won their final home game, the Bulldogs achieved their first-ever perfect 7-0 season at Reese Stadium. This also marks the first time Yale has won the Ivy League Championship in 14 years. The team is currently a single win away from tying the school record of 13 victories in a season. Their chance to gain that final win will come against Princeton on Saturday as the Bulldogs finish off the regular season before heading to the NCAA tournament.
No. 22 Yale will be one of 48 teams at the NCAA showdown, and one of the 24 teams that received automatic qualification by winning their conference. The selection show will occur on November 18th, the Monday preceding the first round of the tournament. The bracket will be announced via live stream on the NCAA website.
The 2005 Yale team dropped in the first round of the College Cup against Stony Brook, but this year’s team is determined to prove themselves on the tournament pitch. The Bulldogs have already demonstrated this season that they could hold their own against defending NCAA champion Maryland. The Terps narrowly defeated the Elis in October after being awarded a questionable corner kick in overtime. The Elis hope their strong season is a sign of what’s yet to come in the NCAA.
“We have worked so hard the past year since January,” Lazaros Efthymiou ’22 said. “We always said we wanted to be the toughest, fittest, and the most prepared team in the Ivy League and this trophy shows just that. However, we haven’t fulfilled all our goals yet. We want to win as many games possible in the NCAA tournament. So we‘re starting hard work this week again.”
The Bulldogs wrap up their season on Saturday, Nov. 16, with a match against Princeton at 4 p.m. before heading to the NCAA tournament which kicks off on Nov. 21.
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