This article was originally published by the Brown Daily Herald and can be found here.
The intensity was evident from the start. The pace of the game was feverish. The play was physical. Both teams knew what was at stake.
Yes, it was just the first of the women’s soccer team’s seven-game Ivy League schedule. But the meaning was not lost on either squad; Brown needed to bounce back from last week’s loss by playing host to Dartmouth, a team riding a five-game win streak.
“Every single Ivy game,” said captain Abby Carchio ’20, “is like a championship game.”
Saturday revealed the blueprint for how Brown can win the conference title this season. In the 2-1 win over Dartmouth, the Bears’ trio of midfielders — Carchio, Star White ’21 and Brittany Raphino ’23 — controlled the game by attacking on offense and defense, fluidly transitioning from play to play. Dartmouth was pushed up and out of its set plays, making it easier for Bruno to spread the field.
This championship attitude set the tone for the game. Bruno’s aggressiveness, led by the midfielders, seemed to give Dartmouth trouble. The Bears’ defeat of the Big Green offered a glimpse into their path to the title.
“We have a lot of depth,” said junior captain Sydney Cummings ’21. “For other teams we shut out two players max, but they have to shut down our whole team.”
The Bears pounced at the start of each half, instead of nonchalantly playing like they have done in previous matchups. Against Villanova last weekend, Bruno admitted to coming out lackadaisical and their eight-shot, zero on goal performance ultimately led to a 1-0 defeat.
But Saturday night, Brown dominated the opening 20 minutes of play by executing offensive movements to produce viable shot attempts and suffocated Dartmouth’s offense with effective defensive pressure. By the end of the half, Brown had taken 11 shots to Dartmouth’s three.
The Big Green hadn’t allowed a goal in five games, but Carchio ended its streak six minutes into the contest. In her first start since returning from a hip injury, she stepped into the middle of the 18 and sent a left-footed shot toward the back-left corner of the net. Dartmouth goalie Mariel Gordon defended the middle of the net with a wide, tripod-like stance. She failed to move her feet and, instead, decided to wave her arms in an attempt to stop the ball.
“It was tough being out (with injury),” Carchio said. “I did a lot of visualisations so when I came in, I was ready to go and ready to put it away for my team.”
There was another play in the 32nd minute that further contributed to Brown’s dominance. Raphino ran the length of the field, going one-on-four, after accepting a pass at midfield. She beat two defenders on pure speed alone, crossing up the third while keeping the fourth on her left hip. As Raphino crossed the goalie’s box, she shot into all the legs around her. She recovered the ball, but her entangled legs unintentionally delivered it to Dartmouth as she took a hard fall. The referees did not call a foul, but it was exactly the kind of tenacious action Brown wanted that night and in future games.
“We (worked) a lot on set pieces (this week) and did a lot with forwards getting shots on goal,” Cummings said. “We train in practice and get done whatever we need to get done (in games).”
With 10 minutes left in the first half, a misplayed Brown ball on the wing resulted in a Dartmouth possession. Erin Kawakami ’21 dribbled up from the wing, across midfield and to the top of the box where the entire Brown defense awaited her. Rather than get into a footwork contest, Kawakami hocked it from range, high and long, over the outstretched arms of leaping Brown goalie Kayla Thompson ’21. The half ended tied at one.
As was the story of the first, Brown opened the second half aggressively. On Bruno’s first play of the half, Ava Seelenfreund ’23 swooped in from the wing as Brown attacked from right to left. Seelenfreund received a cross and instantly booted a shot that went just wide of the net. Although unsuccessful, her shot showed that Brown kept up the same energy.
In the 51st minute, a Seelenfreund-Raphino outside-inside sequence produced a Raphino shot attempt. Gordon stumbled in the direction of Raphino, and did not purposely stop the ball but, nevertheless, managed to thwart the shot. Five minutes later, Cummings’ corner kick died after grazing Raphino’s head, falling into an open space in the crowded penalty box. White got to it before Dartmouth’s scrambling defense, smoking in the uncontested rebound.
This marked the first time of the season that an opposing team scored twice on the Big Green.
The next 20 minutes featured back and forth tussles — Dartmouth was unwilling to wave the white flag yet and Brown kept the pedal to the metal. The Big Green sent multiple shots Thompson’s way. She played hot potato with them but eventually secured the catch and stopped the goal.
Brown took advantage of any and all stall tactics for the last five minutes of the game, solidifying its 2-1 victory over the Green.
“We’re our own biggest competitor,” said Head Coach Kia McNeill. “Everything’s in our hands. If we make sure that everyone shows up on any given day, I don’t think there’s anybody in the league that we can’t beat.”
Brown will look for its second league win at Columbia University Saturday.