Nina Lindberg/Yale Athletics

This fall, the Yale women’s soccer team will return to campus, eager to compete after missing the fall 2020 season. 

With head coach Sarah Martinez and assistant coach Holly Hein at the helm, the squad will hope to build off the successes of its fall 2019 season. The team finished the season ranked third in the Ivy League, its tied highest finish since the 2009 season. Six current first years will get their first taste of collegiate competition when sports return this fall.

“As a first-year, I’ve been able to get more settled with the academic side of college without having a season this past fall,” forward Meredith Phillips ’24 said. “I am very thankful to just be on campus, meeting people and starting to explore everything Yale has to offer, while also getting the chance to start training with the team.”

In 2019, the team had an impressive showing throughout the season, bringing a positive mindset and aggression to each game. Though a late-season loss against Columbia ended its campaign for the Ivy title, the group had plenty of accomplishments to show for their hard work. 

While finishing third in the Ivy League, the Bulldogs racked up 11 wins, a number they had only reached once before in the previous ten years. The Elis also reached a total goal count of 31 while only allowing 14 goals against their defense throughout the season, surpassing the standing 2008 record of 30 goals scored in a season. 

“Thinking back on our first game against St. John’s, and then taking a look at our dominant performance this past weekend, it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come,” captain and goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel ’20 said in a November 2019 interview with the News. “Our confidence, tactical awareness and speed of play all increased throughout the season, and I think our performance against Brown epitomizes the talent of this team.”

After assuming the role of head coach in December 2019, Martinez began creating her vision for the future of the team. In the 2019 season, Martinez and the rest of the coaching staff emphasized mental focus and positive mindsets for team members to improve every aspect of their play. The strategy paid off as the Bulldogs celebrated their most successful season in recent years. 

This year, with phased restrictions to athletic training, Martinez focused on helping each athlete decide what approach was best for them, whether that meant electing to take a leave of absence, continuing to train with the team on campus or practicing independently at home. 

For the first years, the coaching staff made a large effort to integrate new players into the lineup without the typical bonding of team dinners or bus rides together. Though they acknowledged that in-person contact cannot be replicated, Martinez noted the unique opportunity that acclimating to Yale and training without competition could provide. 

“It’s something we’ve always wondered: what would the experience be like for first years if they could get settled into school, train and not have the pressure of games?” Martinez said. “For us, it’s something we’re really excited about. And I’m excited about the leaders on campus to guide them.”

Martinez is joined by Hein, who began as assistant coach in January 2020. Hein previously coached at the University of Michigan, where she played as an undergraduate. She led the team as captain in her final two years of college before graduating to play professionally in the U.S., with Houston Dash and Seattle Reign FC, and abroad, with Åland United in Åland, Finland. 

Defender Kristen Enriquez ’21 captained the team during this unconventional year. Without competition, she emphasized the team’s focus on building cohesion and a strong team culture while also maintaining fitness during the year. Enriquez’s career with the Yale squad displayed tremendous growth and commitment to the sport. After starting her first year as a walk-on and appearing in one match, she worked hard to earn playing time and started all 16 games in fall 2019. In April 2020, Enriquez was elected captain by her teammates. 

“She’s unbelievable in every aspect of her life,” Martinez said of Enriquez. “She finds her voice and leads each individual in the way she knows she can get the most out of them. You just can’t say a bad thing about her, from her work on the field, to her vocal leadership, to her empathy and her ability to connect with people. She’s certainly the right leader at the right time for us.”

This fall, the Bulldogs will return to the field eager to make up for lost time. With a number of athletes returning from leaves of absence and new first years joining the squad, the Blue and White will be prepared to build on their past successes. 

The women’s soccer team plays out of Reese Stadium. 

ALESSA KIM-PANERO
MELANIE HELLER