William McCormack, Contributing Photographer

After more than 17 months without intercollegiate athletic competition, a Yale team returned to competition for the first time on Friday as women’s soccer lost to Buffalo in overtime, 3–2. 

The Elis (0–1, 0–0 Ivy) opened their season by hosting the Bulls (2–1, 0–0 MAC) at Reese Stadium in scorching afternoon heat. In Yale head coach Sarah Martinez’s first game at the helm, the Bulldogs featured 14 first-year and sophomore players who debuted in their first college game, including starting goalkeeper Annie Welch ’25, goal-scoring forward Ellie Rappole ’25 and midfield playmaker Alanna Butcher ’25. In an unpredictable overtime game, the Bulls won despite a strong Bulldog performance in the first half. 

“We still have a lot to work out especially this year, having two full new classes of players,” Martinez said after the game. “We have kinks, we have tests to be had and, you know, answers to be solved, and I think we grew for sure.”

Friday’s game was the first Yale athletic competition to take place since March 12, 2020. (Photo: William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

Yale finished third in the Ivy League in 2019 and was picked fourth in the 2021 Ivy League preseason poll behind reigning champion Brown, Harvard and Princeton. While the Ivy League suspended athletic competition from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 through last spring, the Yale women’s soccer had not played a game since their last season concluded in November of 2019. This fall’s squad only features nine returning players. Meanwhile, Buffalo had a 6–1–1 record during the 2020-21 season and was picked first in the 2021 Middle Atlantic Conference preseason poll

The game began intensely with two corner kicks for both teams within the first 10 minutes. Rappole clinched the Bulldogs’ first goal in the game’s 11th minute off a cross from Butcher. After carrying the ball deep into Bull territory, midfielder Reina Bonta ’22 sent the ball to Rappole, who scored her second career goal with a backheel tap in the 22nd minute. A water break quickly followed to relieve players of Friday afternoon heat that reached about 90 degrees during the course of the game. In the 25th minute, Bulldog defender Nana Yang ’25 attempted a wide shot that preceded a Buffalo attack that Welch cleanly denied a minute later.

The first half ended with a high shot from Butcher, marking seven shots for Yale in the half, five of which were on goal. Buffalo attempted 3 shots in the first half, two of which were on goal, and fouled six times as opposed to Yale’s one, but both teams lacked cards at the end of the half. 

Ellie Rappole ’25 back-heeled the ball into the net midway through the first half for her second goal of the game. (Photo: William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

“Right in the first half, right off the bat, we kind of just were looking to possess, to play from the back,” Welch said. “I think we got into our groove a little bit defensively, and we were able to switch the point of attack really well.”

Bull aggression defined the second half, as Buffalo shot 11 times compared to Yale’s two shot attempts in the second frame. Welch made an impressive save in the 65th minute but was unable to block a penalty kick conceded by Molly Fallek ’24 from midfielder Katherine Camper just moments later. Ten minutes afterward, Gianna Yurchak scored from a cross to equalize the game at two. The Bulldogs attempted to rally their defense and successfully staved off two shots in the last five minutes of regular time play.

Under golden goal conditions in overtime play, the first goal of the period awarded the scoring team an immediate victory, and the Bulls won with a shot in the 94th minute converted by first-year forward Arianna Zumpano. By the end of the game, the Bulldogs had two successful saves and zero offsides, with only six fouls through just over 90 minutes of play.

“I think since it was our first real game, we still got some things to work out and that’s a good thing,” Rappole told the News from the pitch postgame. “But we’ll get better from here. We’ll definitely learn from the game, and it’s all about just how hard we can push and finding that extra thing in ourselves.”

The Bulldogs are set to play 10 total nonconference games this fall.

HAMERA SHABBIR