This Saturday, the Yale men’s soccer team (4–1–3, 0–1–0 Ivy) suffered their first defeat of the semester with a 2-1 loss to Penn (6–1–1, 1–0–0 Ivy) in the season’s Ivy League opener.  

Coming into conference play after a scorching hot run that included victories over West Virginia, Villanova and Marquette, Yale would appear to be favored against a Penn team that only mustered one win in conference play last year. However, the Bulldogs struggled to dictate the flow of the game against the Quakers.

“I am not sure if it was the extra excitement of the Ivy home opener, but we were just a bit off in every aspect against Penn,” head coach Kylie Stannard told the News. “We need to refocus on some fundamental parts of the game to get ready for Princeton.”

The Bulldogs certainly looked like the better team at the start of the game, putting intense pressure on Penn’s defense and earning several corner kicks. 

Yale struck first off a 20th minute corner kick sequence that began when defender TJ Presthus ’25 put the ball in the box. Forward Kahveh Zahiroleslam ’25 gathered the pass in heavy traffic, and fought off the Penn defenders. He then turned and fired it into the net for his third goal of the season. 

The lead didn’t last long as the Quakers struck back two minutes later, capitalizing off of a total defensive collapse. Penn’s Ben Do received the ball on the left flank with plenty of space and drove down the sideline. He somehow maneuvered through a wall of two defenders in what looked like a video game glitch, and laid it off to Ben Stitz, who put it past the keeper. 

The Blue and White struggled to get back into the game after the goal, with the match taking on a much slower pace for the rest of the first half, and both teams unable to create many big chances. 

The stalemate continued well into the second half, with the two teams appearing evenly matched and Yale seemingly headed towards its second straight draw. The Quakers, however, had other plans, as Leo Burney seismically shocked Reese Field with a 75th minute goal after the ball fell to him off of a deflection. 

While the Elis have shown resilience when trailing this year, the one-goal deficit proved to be too much to overcome in the final 15 minutes, as the whistles blew with the scoreboard reading 2–1. 

“I think the area we need to improve on following the Penn game is recognizing key moments of the game,” goalkeeper Elian Haddock ’23 said, “[like] knowing when to keep the ball and when to attack, for example. We struggled to maintain possession for extended periods of time which killed our momentum and made us susceptible to counterattacks.” 

Though still early in the season, the loss is a massive setback to Yale’s hopes of entering the nation’s top 25 ranking, which they were on the verge of achieving for the first time in recent memory after forcing a draw against No. 4 Duke earlier in the week. 

The result means Yale will have less margin for error as they look to capture an Ivy League title. Meanwhile, Penn now holds second place in the conference place and has won four straight games, albeit against unranked opponents. 

To the average Ivy League soccer fan, the result may seem like an upset victory. However, a deeper delve into the history books indicates that Penn has been the Bulldogs’ theobromine for the last decade. Yale’s most recent victory over Penn came in a 2-1 game back on Oct. 20, 2012. Even in Yale’s historic 2019 season, their one Ivy League loss was suffered at the hands of the Quakers. 

Midfielder Max Rogers ’25 believes that the loss will be a “wake-up” call for the team.

“I’d say that the Penn game was a much needed wake up call for us,” Rogers said. “Looking to the Princeton game we need to get back to doing what has been successful for us all season, in giving our forwards early and consistent service down the channels. As well as this, we have placed a strong emphasis on making sure we win our individual matchups all across the pitch.” 

Yale will look to get back on track this Saturday in another Ivy League matchup against Princeton.

Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.