NEW HAVEN, Conn. – This weekend, the No. 2 ranked Bulldogs will travel to No. 4 Princeton on Saturday and then to No. 3 Penn on Sunday.
Yale will attempt to protect its 12-0 record against the toughest competition that it has faced thus far this season. The Bulldogs have already knocked off the Nos. 5-7 teams with dominant victories over Trinity, Stanford and Cornell, but have yet to face a team of the caliber of the two schools they will play against this weekend.
Yale's Saturday opponent, No. 4 Princeton, comes into the match with a 5-2 record, with their only losses coming to Penn and No. 1 Harvard. The Harvard match is especially significant to the Bulldogs, as even in a losing effort, Princeton showed that it could hang with a squad of Yale's caliber by winning four matches. The last time the teams met was in the 2011 Howe Cup, a match that Yale won 6-3 to advance to the finals. When the two teams met in the regular season, Yale pulled off a 7-2 victory.
In terms of individual matchups, Princeton's collection of highly ranked players could pose a unique challenge to the Bulldogs that can only really be matched by Harvard. Princeton's best player, Julie Cerullo, is ranked No. 3 nationally and will face off against Yale's No. 1 ranked Millie Tomlinson, a sophomore. Cerullo lost twice to graduated Yale captain Logan Greer in 2011, but has never played against Tomlinson.
Princeton's second highest ranked player is Elizabeth Eyre, who finished last season at No. 13, but No. 36 ranked Katie Giovinazzo has been playing in the No. 2 spot for Princeton. Yale's No. 2, sophomore Kim Hay, finished last season ranked at No. 15.
The No. 3 spot will pit Yale's senior captain, No. 33 ranked Rhetta Nadas, against the higher ranked Eyre.
At No. 4, Yale senior Alexandra van Arkel, ranked No. 56, will take on No. 32 ranked Alexis Saunders.
Next, No. 47 ranked junior Katie Ballaine will take on freshman Hallie Dewey.
No. 6 will pit No. 46 Gwen Tilghman, a sophomore, against another Princeton freshman, Nicole Bunyan, who has not yet lost a match at the collegiate level.
The No. 7 spot will be a match between sophomore Lillian Fast, ranked No. 68, and No. 37 Alexandra Sawin.
At Nos. 8 and 9, Yale freshmen Shihui Mao and Issey Norman-Ross will face off against No. 44 Casey Cortes and No. 77 Caroline Feeley, offering both players the highest-ranked opponents of their short Yale careers.
No. 3 Penn, who Yale will visit on Sunday, currently stands at 4-2 on the season, with the two losses coming to Harvard, by a score of 7-2, and Trinity, who topped the Quakers 5-4. Yale has already faced Penn this season, winning 6-3 in the Ivy League Scrimmages, but both teams have changed significantly since that showdown. When the two teams met in the 2010-2011 season, Yale broke a four-year losing streak with a 5-4 victory in the Bulldogs' first match of the season.
One of those losses was the first and only defeat of Tomlinson's career, and while she won't have a chance to avenge that defeat, either No. 10 Rachael Goh or No. 12 Nabilla Ariffin will still test her on Sunday. Penn's lineup has fluctuated far more than that of Princeton this season, so the exact matchups for Yale are unpredictable, but the quality of play will be high regardless of who lines up where. Outside of Goh and Ariffin at the top, Penn boasts six additional ranked players in No. 19 Pia Trikha, No. 22 Yarden Odinak, No. 42 Courtney Jones, No. 57 Steph Vogel, No. 67 Chloe Blacker, and No. 94 Hyland Murphy. So far this season, Murphy has typically been Penn's No. 10 player, with freshman Leslie Gill and Colleen Fehm playing at Nos. 7 and 8, and Blacker at No. 9.
If Yale is able to win both matches this weekend, the Bulldogs will be 4-0 in the Ivy League with only No. 8 Dartmouth and No. 1 Harvard left to play. Should Yale win out until the Harvard match, the situation will almost exactly mirror last season, where Yale went to Harvard for the final match of the season with both the Ivy League title and the No. 1 ranking on the line and came away with a 5-4 victory.
Report by Calvin Bohn '14, Yale Sports Publicity