October 12, 2007

Stingy Yale Defense, Ivy-Best Keeper Attempt to Silence Red

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The women’s soccer team is heading to New Haven, Conn. to take on the Yale Bulldogs tomorrow afternoon. It will be the first game in a doubleheader, with a matchup of the two schools’ men’s programs in the nightcap. The Red women (4-7-0, 0-2-0Ivy) are coming off a home loss to Harvard and continue to seek their first Ivy win of the year. Yale (6-5-0, 1-1-0) is looking to bounce back from a home loss to Dartmouth.
Yale brings a solid offensive attack featuring junior forward and returning second-team All-Ivy selection Maggie Westfal, who leads the team in goals, assists and points. She ranks fifth in the conference for points and third in goals per game, behind Cornell’s own Lena Russomagno, who is second in both categories.
The Red’s freshman goalkeeper Jodi Palmer will likely have a busy day stopping Westfal and the rest of the Bulldogs’ attack, which averages an Ivy-leading 14 shots per game.
Russomagno is cognizant of Yale’s offensive talent and noted that getting the ball up the field would be one of the keys to beating the Bulldogs.
“They have several strong forwards and attacking midfielders,” Russomango said. “Once we get past them, hopefully we’ll be able to exploit the defense and score some goals.”
The Red is currently trying to break out of a four game losing streak. While the defense, led by senior captain Leslie Campbell and classmate Jill Tirabassi, has been holding up, the team has not been able to muster any offensive production throughout the skid.
The front line has been bitten by the injury bug as freshman midfielder Natalie Zandt became the second rookie (Katie Hayes was the first) to tear her ACL this year. Sophomore midfielder Eva Dixon is also not at full strength, but will try to play some minutes tomorrow. These key injuries, and what players have called a lack of finishing have been the primary causes for the Red’s offensive struggles.
Unfortunately for the Red, it looks like things will not get any easier against the Bulldogs and their solid defense, which is quarterbacked by senior goalkeeper Susan Starr. Starr is currently atop the Ivy in goals against average (0.36 goals per game) and save percentage (0.929). Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the Bulldogs have not allowed more than one goal in a game since a mid-September loss to Washington.
The two teams have played two common opponents — Bucknell and Harvard. The Bulldogs beat each of them, while the Red fell by one goal to both.
Yale will enjoy home field advantage this weekend at Reese Stadium, where it has earned a 5-1-0 record this year. The visiting Red comes in as the underdog, with an 0-5-0 road record. While the teams do not seem to match up statistically this year, the same was true last season when the Red snapped a nine-game losing streak and beat Yale 3-1 for its only Ivy win. Russomagno, who was still a senior high school last year, is not making anything of their last matchup.
“Some of the girls brought it up [last year’s game] up, but we’re not taking anything for granted,” she said. “They’re a really strong team and we’re going to need to play well to get a win.”