The collective sigh of relief from the women’s soccer team could be heard all across campus on Saturday as the team finally broke a nine-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Ivy League rival Yale.
“The look on the players’ faces was priceless,” said interim head coach Gretchen Zigante. “In all my years of coaching, I’ve never felt quite this good. It was great for this team to finally get a win.”
All season the Red (2-9-1, 1-3 Ivy) has been waiting for the opportunity to open the offensive floodgates and unleash a barrage of goals on its opponent — and against Yale (6-6-1, 2-2) those gates practically burst at the seams.
“We identified that [lack of scoring] was what was holding us back,” Zigante said. “We have worked on it to exhaustion and the players really came through.”
[img_assist|nid=18955|title=A step ahead|desc=Senior midfielder Jessica Schindler (12) gets a cross off as a Yale defender closes in during the women’s soccer team’s 3-1 victory over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=76]
Freshman Eva Dixon, who tallied four shots in the game, was the first to find the net when she finished a long cross from junior Mariye Wick in the 18th minute. The goal, as well as the next two, came against backup Bulldog goalkeeper Marcela Benitez, who entered the game in the eighth minute to relieve the injured starter Susan Starr.
Yale would rebound in the 30th minute when a miscue by freshman goalkeeper Carlyn Swensen allowed the Bulldogs’ Trista Choksi to tap the ball into the open net.
The story line looked like it might follow a similar path as the Red took an early lead only to find the game even a few minutes later, but Cornell came out in the second half and took the lead on goal from senior Caitlin Oliver. Classmate Alison McKeown stole the ball at midfield and weaved her way through the defense before passing it off to Oliver for the finish.
McKeown would assist on the final goal as well when she found open senior Kaitlin Dufton who put the shot past Benitez. McKeown performed well all day, playing at center forward as opposed to her usual spot on the wing.
“It felt really good to play [in the center],” she said. “I can move in either direction and it was so much fun to finally see my teammates score some goals.”
Swensen stepped up to play an extremely solid game in the goal, recording nine saves and sprawling to push away three potential Yale goals in the final 15 minutes.
“[Swensen] has been solid all season and [Saturday] was her best game,” said senior Jessica Schindler. “She made some huge saves and had an amazing game.”
Because the team did not play a midweek game, Zigante was able to use a full week of practice in preparation for Yale. Shooting was the main focus for her squad during the training sessions and it paid dividends in the game.
“We had four really good practices this week,” McKeown said. “We focused really heard on finishing so that we could finally get some goals.”
After scoring only five total goals during the losing streak, the three-goal outburst was a welcome change for a squad that was in dire need of victory against a Yale squad that was second in the league before the game.
“We have been playing to the level of our competition,” McKeown said. “It really worked in our favor [against Yale] because we were force to play our best and we did.”
Zigante hopes that the team that showed up on Saturday will continue to develop over the final five games of the season.
“This is was how we wanted to play all season,” Zigante said.