A historic season is in the books for the Yale men’s soccer team after winning the Ivy League and going on to compete in the NCAA tournament. The Elis fell to Boston College in the first round of the tournament, but the tough loss does not diminish the accomplishment of this 2019 campaign.

The Bulldogs (13–3–2) have improved their record every season since head coach Kylie Stannard took the helm, building up to this record-breaking year. The team’s 13 victories matched the 1999 school record for most wins in a single season. The Ivy League Championship title was secured for the first time since 2005 with 3–1 wins over Harvard, Dartmouth and Cornell. The Bulldogs also matched the 1989 team for best conference record. Yale’s match-up against Boston College marked the school’s seventh appearance in the NCAA and first showing in 14 years.

“The season’s success can be devoted to many factors,” defender Lazaros Efthymiou ’22 said. “We had some great additions [to] our coaching staff that definitely helped us a lot. Also, the incoming freshman class was ready […] to help whenever they were needed. On the whole though, we’re still in the process of moving our program forward, so every year we want to get a bit more experience, confident and quality, so that we can establish ourselves at the top.”

This team showed a lot of promise from the beginning, with four of the top six scorers from the 2018 campaign returning this season. The Bulldogs opened their season with challenging matchups against NCAA tournament teams Syracuse and Colgate and returned from New York with a pair of ties. The Elis would then go on to win their next nine games — their only losses this regular season came in hard-fought games in overtime against defending NCAA champion Maryland and Penn.

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 28 in College Soccer News’ Top-30 national poll by late September and would climb to No. 21 a month later. Yale’s winning percentage of 0.824 at the end of the season was 13th best in the nation.

“As the captain, it has been an incredible honor to wear the Y and bring Yale soccer back to the top. It was a special group and a historic season,” captain and midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20 said. “The Ivy League title, Yale’s NCAA first appearance in so many years and tying the record of wins in program history is something that will always be there to look back on and it could not have been written better. Our senior night against Brown when the referee blew the whistle was such a special moment, in front of our families and friends. We definitely leave the jersey in a better place and I’m always proud to be a bulldog.”

Yale’s outstanding 2019 campaign was reflected on an individual level by players who dominated the Ivy League in various statistics. For instance, Yuste and midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 topped the Ancient Eight in goals and assists respectively. Yuste scored eight goals in all competitions. Meanwhile Winhoffer had 11 assists to his name, closely followed by Icelandic defender Siggy Arnason ’23 with six. In addition, Enzo Okpoye ’22 came joint-first in the game winning goals metric, scoring three crucial winners over the course of the season.

When it came to Ivy League honors at the end of the campaign, the Bulldogs’ unparalleled effort was duly rewarded with numerous decorations. Winhoffer was awarded Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, while Stannard was unanimously named Coach of the Year for the first time in his Yale career. Additionally, goalkeeper Elian Haddock ’22, Okpoye, Yuste, and Winhoffer were all named in the Ivy League First Team, with defender Justin Lobe ’20 and midfielder Ryan Matteo ’20 receiving Second Team honors. The four first team All-Ivy selections were the most in school history.

“Grit, determination, brotherhood, the seniors and their leadership [contributed to the Ivy title victory],” midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 said. “They gathered us early this summer so we could bond and then work together on the pitch – it made us more cohesive and together. Also the coaching staff did a great job of keeping us grounded through our highs and lows.”

The Bulldogs played their last game of the season against Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament, ultimately falling to a 3–0 loss. Although the Elis hoped to progress further in the tournament, they will be proud when looking back on the achievement of qualifying for the tournament — a feat that no previous Yale squad had matched for 14 years.

Overall, the Elis first outright Ivy League championship win since 2005 means that this team stands head and shoulders above its predecessors. In a record-breaking season that few would have predicted at the start of the campaign, the Blue and White will rightfully take immense pride in leaving the jersey in a better place.

 

Sophie Kane | sophie.kane@yale.edu

Syimyk Kyshtoobaev | syimyk.kyshtoobaev@yale.edu