Yale did something that no other Ivy League team had been able to do to Columbia this fall. That was score a goal. It was enough to spoil what the Lions had hoped would be a day of celebration at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium.
Aerial Chavarin scored the only goal of the game on a penalty kick with 56 seconds remaining in the second half as the Bulldogs handed the Lions their first Ivy loss. Columbia entered the day needing only a win to clinch the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Lions now must beat Harvard next weekend to earn their celebration.
Yale head coach Rudy Meredith devised a perfect game plan for Columbia, who had won six straight games and hadn’t allowed a goal in more than a month.
“Early on in the week, we made a decision to high pressure them, and we worked on it all week in practice,” Meredith said. “Instead of playing one or two forwards like we normally do, we decided to play three to put more pressure on their back line. It’s similar to a full court press in basketball. I talked to one of their assistant coaches after the game, and he said it definitely threw them off.”
It also may have been a factor in the play that led to the winning goal. Chavarin was racing forward to try and corral a pass when she was taken down in the box. Columbia goalkeeper Sophie Whitehouse guessed right on the ensuing penalty kick, but Chavarin had enough on it to sneak it inside the post, setting off a Yale celebration.
“I think our pressure led to that penalty kick,” Meredith said.
The Bulldogs also got an outstanding performance from their back line, limiting the Lions to 10 shots in the game, including just two in the second half.
Brittany Simpson marked Columbia’s Amaris Hemmings, who came into the game with five assists and is a key offensive facilitator, while Carlin Hudson drew Emma Anderson, who has eight goals. Those two and Holly Neshat, who shares the league lead with nine goals, were neutralized.
“Our defense was unbelievable,” Meredith said. “They watched film all week and really paid attention to the game plan.”
Goalkeeper Alyssa Fagel finished with five saves to post the shutout.
The Bulldogs (10-4-1, 3-2-1 Ivy) have reached double figures in overall wins for the first time since 2009 and now have four more victories than last year.
“It’s been a complete turnaround, and certainly a step in the right direction,” Meredith said. “I’m happy for the senior class.”
That class will be honored next Saturday when the Bulldogs play their final game of the regular season, hosting Brown at 4 p.m. at Reese Stadium.