MEN’S SOCCER: Bulldogs split away games against Fairfield, Villanova over Labor Day weekend
The Yale men’s soccer team won its first match since November 2019 against Fairfield on Friday and narrowly lost against Villanova on Monday night.
For the first time since November 21, 2019, the Yale men’s soccer team took the field on Friday night in a match against Fairfield.
The Bulldogs (1–1–0, 0–0–0 Ivy) charged the field in their season-opening game and snagged a 3–2 win against the Stags (0–2–0, 0–0–0 MAAC) with forward Kahveh Zahiroleslam ’24 notching the deciding goal with just 10 minutes of regular play remaining. In their second matchup of the weekend, the Elis traveled south to take on Villanova (3–1–0, 0–0–0 Big East) and fell 2–1 after the Wildcats broke a tie game late in the second half. This Saturday, Yale returns to Reese Stadium with a game against UMass Lowell.
“It was good to be back competing after over 600 days since our last official game for Yale,” forward Paolo Carroll ’23 said. “It was massive to start off the season with a win against a solid Fairfield team — we fought until the end and our overall team fitness showed.”
The Bulldogs took the field on Friday night and immediately set a fast-paced tone for the season. After just 11 minutes of play, forward Eric Lagos ’24 opened up the scoring with a goal assisted by defender Sigfus Arnason ’23. The goal set the team up nicely to lead early in the first half but was quickly matched by a shot from Fairfield first-year forward Rasmus Sorensen Rejnhold, who found the back of the net for his first collegiate goal. Yale had two more close shots before the teams left for the half tied 1–1.
In the second half, goalkeeper and captain Elian Haddock ’23 held off an aggressive Fairfield offense, making three strong saves in the first several minutes. The Bulldog offense answered back, with Lagos playing up top and notching his second goal of the game in the 59th minute. The goal — assisted by defender TJ Presthus ’25 — again put Yale in the lead. Lagos tried for a hat trick a few minutes later, but his penalty shot was denied by Fairfield keeper William Marment. The Stags had their own penalty opportunity and were able to tie up the match with just 20 minutes left. After two more masterful saves from Haddock, the Bulldogs pulled off one last goal — Carroll sent the ball up to sophomore forward Zahiroleslam, who found the far corner with nine minutes to spare.
“It felt amazing for our guys to finally put on the jersey, represent Yale and compete on the field again,” head coach Kylie Stannard told the News. “The guys are doing a great job of soaking in a lot of new information for a lot of players, and it will be key for us to truly learn and grow from each game so we avoid the same types of lessons. We had a total of 10 guys play their first [Division I] minutes this weekend so we are excited to be able to build off of this.”
The Elis hit the pitch again on Monday afternoon against Villanova. The Wildcats’ Lyam Mackinnon proved a danger for the Eli defense, taking 10 shots over the 90-minute match. Mackinnon opened up the scoring early to give Villanova a 1–0 lead, but a penalty shot from Carroll tied up the score just a few minutes later. In a fiery first half, Yale took five shots and Haddock made four saves, with the team moving quickly to initiate attacks and put the Wildcats under pressure.
The second half saw some challenges for the Bulldogs as Villanova worked hard to keep Yale off the ball. Despite the consistent saves made by Haddock, the Wildcats were able to put together a key play late in the second half, with Mackinnon assisting younger teammate Balthi Saunders as he scored his first collegiate goal. The Bulldogs fought to the end — with the offense taking four more shots and Haddock saving two more — but were unable to tie up the match by the final whistle.
Midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22, the team’s only senior and an All-Ivy First Team selection during Yale’s last season in 2019, missed both games with an injury but traveled with the team. Stannard declined to comment on the details of Okpoye’s injury or a projected timeline for his return.
“The lads put in their best effort for the day, and I think the result could have been very different if some moments and plays had gone our way,” Okpoye said. “There is never really a good time to lose a game, but it is the nature of athletic contests that things don’t always go the way they’re expected to; we lost and we have to learn from the experience and move on.”
Yale will kick off against UMass Lowell this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Reese Stadium.