PRINCETON, N.J. - Meredith Speck has a number of key roles for the Yale women’s soccer team. Late in the second half of Saturday’s Ivy League opener against Princeton, head coach Rudy Meredith had her back on defense. When the game went to overtime, his plan was to keep her there. Speck, though, had other ideas.
“She came to me and said ‘Let’s go for the win.’ She looked so confident that I had to listen,” Meredith said.
So Meredith moved her up front. The decision paid off when Speck helped set up the game-winning goal. She took a long feed from Frannie Coxe, dribbled down the wing, drew the goalkeeper towards her and then sent a perfect cross to a wide open Paula Hagopian, who knocked it in to the empty net with just 1:16 left in the first extra period, lifting the Bulldogs to a thrilling 3-2 victory on a gorgeous afternoon at Roberts Stadium.
It was the second game-winner of the season for Hagopian, who also scored in overtime against Towson.
“It was exactly the same kind of goal,” Meredith said.
There were other similarities to the Towson game as well. Most notably, the way Yale came from behind. The Bulldogs trailed 1-0 and 2-1 against Princeton. In the game with Towson, they overcame a two-goal deficit to force overtime.
“That was a good lesson, and it carried over,” Meredith said. “We believe we can come back.”
It also was similar to recent Yale-Princeton games. For the seventh straight time in the series, the visiting team won.
Meredith can’t really explain that, but does think there is a benefit to having the first Ivy game on the road.
“The team gets some time together to bond away from campus,” he said.
The Bulldogs trailed 1-0 at halftime, but tied it just 1:39 into the second half when Speck headed in a Hagopian cross.
Princeton, the defending Ivy League champions, took a 2-1 lead on Haley Chow’s goal at 73:21, but Yale answered less than a minute later. Melissa Gavin settled a short midfield pass from Hagopian and fired a shot from 20 yards out that beat Princeton goalkeeper Darcy Hargadon.
“I joke with her all the time about shooting from far out, but she has a lethal shot,” Meredith said. “All she needs is half a step.”
It was Gavin’s team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Princeton had a big edge in play early in overtime and had the first four shots, but the Bulldogs capitalized on their only quality scoring chance to win it.
Goalkeeper Rachel Ames made eight saves to earn the victory.
“Rachel made some unbelievable saves to keep us in the game,” Meredith said.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Bulldogs (5-3). The losses were the final two games of a three-games-in-five-days stretch last weekend.
“I knew that would be a rough stretch, but I thought we handled it pretty well,” Meredith said. “We had faced a lot of different scenarios and I think that helped prepare us [for Ivy League play].”
The Bulldogs are off until next Saturday when they host Harvard at 4 p.m. at Reese Stadium.