MEN’S SOCCER: NCAA Tournament berth, outright Ivy title and national ranking highlight historic season
The Elis won their first outright Ancient Eight crown since 1991.
The Yale men’s soccer team’s 2019 season was one for the books. Despite facing a tough schedule featuring five teams that had played in the NCAA tournament last season, the Bulldogs went undefeated through their first 11 games and went on to secure the Ivy League championship, their sixth league title and first outright title since 1991.
By the time the Bulldogs defeated Cornell 3–1 in late October, the men’s soccer team was 3–0 in Ivy play for the first time in 28 years and unbeaten through 11 games for the first time since the 1935–36 team’s perfect season. The Elis went on to finish the in Ancient Eight with six wins and only a single loss, securing the championship title and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament on Senior Night.
The eight seniors celebrated the win at Reese by hoisting the Ivy League trophy in the air with their teammates, marking the year as one of the most successful in Yale history.
“It was a well-deserved title for a very special group,” Yale captain and midfielder Miguel Yuste ’20 said after the game. “All the work we have put in is paying off … [and clinching] the first outright Ivy League title since 1991, in front of family, friends and fans, is an unbelievable feeling. We speak about leaving the jersey in a better place than where we found it, and I think this group has achieved that. This is the first of many more titles to come for the program in the following years.”
The Elis have improved their record every year since Kylie Stannard was appointed head coach in 2015, and optimism for 2019 was high. The season opened with two hard-fought away games against NCAA teams Syracuse and Colgate, both of which ended in draws.
In their sixth straight win, the Bulldogs downed the Crimson in the Ivy opener at Reese Stadium for the first time since 2013. First-year defender Sigfus Arnason ’23 scored two goals, the first two of his Yale career, while midfielder Enzo Okpoye ’22 executed a perfect corner, leading to a 3–1 final result. The winning streak rose to eight straight victories when Yuste scored with two minutes remaining in the first overtime period against UMass.
The Bulldogs replicated their ability to seize early control of the match in the Cornell game, when defender Jeremy Haddock ’22 sent a header into the back corner less than two minutes into the game. This marked the sixth game out of the first 11 in which the Elis scored three goals or more, with a 3–1 final result.
The team’s first loss did not occur until late October, coming against defending NCAA champion Maryland in a narrow overtime defeat. In the heartbreaking 1–0 loss, the winning goal by opposing defender Johannes Bergmann came after the Terps were awarded a controversial corner kick. The defeat snapped a nine-game winning streak, but the team still put forth a strong performance, outshooting their opponent and tallying a 9–3 advantage in corner kicks. The following game against Penn marked the second straight overtime loss for Yale and its first conference loss, though the Bulldogs outshot the Quakers 16–5.
Unfazed by the two losses, the Bulldogs scored seven minutes into the first half against Northeastern and again 29 seconds into the second half. With this 10th victory, Yale reached double digits in wins for the first time since 2005, when it last won an Ancient Eight title. The Elis executed a dominating finish to the conference, taking down both Columbia and Brown in 2–0 victories to secure the Ivy title. Midfielder Mark Winhoffer ’21 and Okpoye each scored goals in the Brown game, while the defense achieved its seventh clean sheet of the season.
Having already clinched the Ivy League title, the Bulldogs took down Princeton 2–1 in their final conference match. The 13 wins matched the 1999 team for most in the school’s history and the six conference victories matched the 1989 team for most in Yale history.
“This is obviously new territory for the whole team — being in the NCAA tournament — but we feel as though we are up for the task,” Arnason said leading up to the tournament. “Boston College [is] a great team with some good results but we know that if we stick to our game plan and play the way we can play, [then] we have a good chance of winning.”
The Bulldogs made their seventh NCAA appearance against Boston College, which finished fifth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Yale went into the game 10th in the nation in goals and No. 25 overall, but Boston College’s three goals marked the most allowed by the Elis all season.
The Bulldogs trailed in the first half for the first time since their second game of the season against Colgate. Although the Elis fell 3–0, the Eagles only tallied 13 shots to Yale’s 12, and the Bulldogs outshot their opponent 7–4 in the second half.
“We fought hard,” goalkeeper Tom Wallenstein ’21 said afterwards. “It’s a hard way to end the season, but overall this program has seen incredible success this year. We have a lot to be proud of as a team and all believe that more promising things are ahead for this squad.”
The Boston College loss did not diminish the historic nature of the 2019 season, which has resulted in individual accolades for many of the players. Four Bulldogs, including seniors Yuste and midfielder Ryan Matteo ’20, earned United Soccer Coaches All-Region recognition. Several seniors are pursuing their dreams of playing professionally, with Yuste and defender Justin Lobe ’20 having attended the combine with the New York Red Bulls in December, Matteo having participated in the Columbus Crew combine, and Yuste and Matteo having been invited to the Midwest Pro Soccer combine with scouts and executives hailing from top clubs around the world. Stannard was also named Ivy League Coach of the Year and selected as New England Soccer Journal’s Coach of the Year.
The eight seniors graduating from Yale leave knowing they elevated the program to new heights, recording one of the best performances by a team in the school’s history.
Yuste, who led the Ivy League with eight goals, will be passing on the torch of the captain position to Winhoffer, who finished the season with six goals and 11 assists, making him sixth in the nation for assists per game.
Sophie Kane | email@example.com