Battle for First Place Goes to Yale, 3-1

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Mary Beth Barham. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Two Goals for Carter

NEW YORK – Ever since a victory by Yale over Dartmouth created a five-way tie atop the Ivy League standings two weeks ago, each weekend has seen teams get weeded out of that logjam. On Friday night in New York, it was time for either Yale or Columbia to either step up or take a tumble from first. The Bulldogs and the Lions entered the game with identical 4-1 records in Ivy League play, part of what was a three-way tie for first with Princeton. In the end only Yale was left standing atop the Ancient Eight, as two goals from senior back Erin Carter and one from sophomore forward Erica Borgo gave the Bulldogs a crucial 3-1 victory that keeps them on pace for at least a share of the Ivy League championship.

After eking out a 2-1 win at Penn last Sunday, it was clear from the start of Friday night's game that the Bulldogs were back in their element. Yale's penalty corner unit was due -- the Bulldogs had gone 0-for-14 on corners at Penn, where the SprinTurf surface made inserting and stick stopping a tricky proposition. Against Columbia, it took just two tries before that corner group produced a goal. Junior forward Maddy Sharp drew the corner, and Carter rifled in a pass from senior midfielder Dinah Landshut to put Yale up 1-0 at 5:45.

"It was nice to score early, and just to be back on Astroturf," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper. "But even after that first goal, we knew Columbia was not going to back down."

Columbia (8-7, 4-2 Ivy League) got some stellar saves from goalie Christie O'Hara, including a kick save on a shot by sophomore forward/midfielder Emily Schuckert less than a minute after the Bulldogs' first goal. But the odds were stacked against her, as the Bulldogs unleashed a barrage of 12 shots in the first half while not allowing Columbia any. They broke through again at the 21:50 mark, as junior forward/midfielder Mary Beth Barham drove in along the left side and fed one in front for Borgo to make it 2-0.

"When we sank that second one, we were generating fantastic attack with our passing game," said Stuper. "That's when it started to feel like we could take control of the game."

But with less than nine minutes to play in the half Yale had a goal waved off. Borgo appeared to tip in a blast from Sharp for a score, but a foul had been called in the midfield and Sharp's restart from that foul was ruled illegal. The Bulldogs also came up empty on four corners in the final 8:30 of the half, leaving the lead at a precarious 2-0 heading into halftime.

That lead grew even slimmer at 44:19, when Columbia got just its second corner of the game and back Desi Scherf scored to make it 2-1 Yale. But six minutes later, sophomore midfielder/back Georgia Holland drew a penalty corner, and Carter once again converted off a Landshut pass. It was her 14th goal of the season, tied for sixth on Yale's single-season list.

"It wasn't surprising when Columbia scored, because we weren't being as aggressive as we had been," Stuper said. "Our team has handled adversity well all year. Goals by the opposing teams have been wake-up calls. For 10 minutes there in the second half, we weren't taking care of business. Within six minutes after that, scoring our third goal allowed us to be more comfortable."

With that play the Bulldogs moved within one of the school record for goals in a season (54; the 1998 team had 55), and tied the school record for assists in a season (53, tied with 1979).

There was a scary moment for both teams when Columbia back Katie DeSandis, who had made a defensive save earlier in the game to help keep Yale's offense in check, collided with Borgo. Borgo got up but DeSandis was down on the turf for several minutes before being helped off.

Columbia called timeout with 9:40 to play, and had a corner a minute after that, but Carter deflected away the first shot and the next one went wide. After that the Bulldogs kept the ball mostly in Columbia's end of the field.

Yale (9-6, 5-1 Ivy League) nearly scored again when Barham sent a perfect crossing pass right across the front of the goal with 6:30 to play, but no-one was home to knock it in. Landshut broke up a pair of Columbia passes in the midfield with two minutes to play, then used an aerial with a minute left to get the ball deep into Lion territory. Senior back Taylor Sankovich drew a foul in the midfield with 20 seconds to play, enabling the Bulldogs to let the final seconds on the clock tick off without any further threats from the Lions.

Sophomore goalie Emily Cain finished with one save, while O'Hara made eight. The Bulldogs outshot the Lions 19-5, and limited Columbia's leading goal scorer -- forward Gabby Kozlowski, who had 10 entering the game -- to just one shot overall and zero shots on goal. That was a tribute not just to Yale's backs, but also to a Bulldog midfield that made major contributions defensively.

"Georgia Holland was just outstanding," said Stuper. "Our midfielders weren't letting anything get by them, and our backs were stepping up. That really stopped Columbia."

With the win the Bulldogs can now turn their attention to a Sunday afternoon non-league game vs. Holy Cross at Johnson Field. Princeton hosts Cornell on Saturday, and that will determine whether the Bulldogs go into the final weekend of the regular season alone at the top of the Ivy League standings, or tied at the top.

Either way, a win against Brown next Saturday would guarantee Yale at least a share of the Ivy League title. But there was not much talk of the Ancient Eight standings heading into Friday night's game, and that does not figure to change any time soon.

"Not at all," Stuper said when asked if the team had focused on the first-place tie heading into Friday night's game. "We have been going one game at a time, wanting one win at a time. This team has really stayed within itself, and focused."

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity