This article was originally published by the Brown Daily Herald and can be found here.
Thursday night, fans filed into Stevenson-Pincince Field while Drake echoed from the loudspeakers and a heavy dusk settled over College Hill.
The women’s soccer team entered the evening’s game against the University of Hartford with momentum, recently posting two shut-out victories over the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and the University of Connecticut. The Bears kept the winning streak alive, advancing to a 4-0-1 record with a 1-0 defeat of the Hawks. Ava Seelenfreund ’23 assisted Sheyenne Allen ’23 with a cross kick at the end of the 67th minute for her first career goal to clinch the match. Bruno followed up the win with another 1-0 shutout sweep of Providence College Sunday afternoon to take home the Crosstown Cup.
Brown 1, Hartford 0
Thursday night, the Bears took a few short sprints to shake off the cold, huddled in the boxes and took to the field to spare off with the Hawks.
In the opening 20 minutes, Hartford’s goalie Maia Perez made four saves on four attempts from a solid Bruno offense. Meanwhile in the Bears’ net, Kayla Thompson ’21 didn’t see any action until just under the 14 minute mark, when she made her first save on Hartford’s only shot attempt of the half.
Bruno’s defense was aggressive and effective: They pressured in the back court and cut off the passing angles, forcing Hartford to stay in the outer wings, which routinely forced turnovers.
Forward Brittany Raphino ’23 was the center of almost every play, showing off natural athleticism and an electric presence on the field that engaged defenders.
“I take my space. I draw people out. Then I see different options,” Raphino said. “So it’s just about seeing where the defenders run and creating space for everyone else.”
With fourteen minutes left in the half, Rebecca Rosen ’22, the reigning Ivy League player of the year, made her first game appearance of the season, subbing in for Celia Story ’19.5.
By halftime, the stats were in favor of the Bears: Brown led shots 12-1 and corner kicks 6-0.
After halftime, with 39 minutes on the clock, the Hawks got their first corner kick of the night, looking to gain momentum. In the following possessions, they defended in a 4-3-3 formation, adding more pressure in the back field.
Midway through the second half, Hartford seemed to be mirroring Brown’s defense by cutting off the wings from Bear attacks and trying to force turnovers. But in the 67th minute, the stars aligned for Bruno. Seelenfreund dribbled down the right wing and turned the corner on her defender, sending a cross kick to a diving Allen no more than two yards away from the goal. Allen tapped the ball past Perez to put Bruno up 1-0 and clinch the dub.
“I feel great — I knew I was gonna get the ball,” Allen said. “(Ava’s pass) was perfect, so I just knew I had to put it away.”
Normally a win would lead to celebration, but Head Coach Kia McNeill held a very somber post-game huddle with her team because the victory wasn’t up to the team’s or staff’s playing standards.
There was disappointment with the level of play, especially with conference play around the corner, according to forward Star White ’21. “Even though we were able to pull out the win here, (our level of play) wasn’t as high as we know it could be,” White said.
Brown 1, Providence 0
Sunday afternoon, icy white Bear uniforms matched up against black Providence College jerseys in preparation for the first possession under a beaming high sun.
The game was immediately high-paced in its first five minutes as both teams kept the field wide, which forced forwards and midfielders to work overtime in the scorching heat. Both teams would take advantage of substitutions throughout the contest.
Around the 30 minute mark, Friar Christina Rodgers got away with a handball that broke up the Bears’ play. The referee, however, rewarded Bruno with a corner throw.
In the 22nd minute alone, Friar goalie Shelby Hogan saved two shot attempts: A header off a serve and a play involving cuts that slipped behind their defender.
The match-up of the game was between Seelenfreund and PC’s Olivia Lucia. Off a goal kick at the 17-minute mark, Lucia shielded Seelenfreund while she manipulated the ball trying to turn the corner around the Friar.
The next play, however, involved foot action from Allen, who maneuvered around her defender to create space. Claire Myers ’22 kept the ball alive and occupied two defenders, before Story swooped in to recontrol a fleeting ball. Finally, Seelenfreund knocked the ball in when the defense was in disarray. The Bears went up 1-0 with 14 minutes left in the half.
“It was a really unselfish play by (Myers),” McNeill said. “(Seelenfreund) is clinical in and around the box, so as soon as it was on her foot, I knew it was going in.”
The last few minutes featured a potentially flattened Brown against a zealous PC taking advantage of any opportunities they were able to create. The hot weather worked as a third opponent in this competition as the Bears held off Friar attacks until halftime.
In the second half, PC defense clogged up the midfield and sealed off the passing lanes, causing Bear turnovers in the back half as the game grew more physical.
With 20 minutes left to go in the half, the aggression increased to uncalled tugging on arms, forced collisions while players chased after balls and unnecessary contact after whistles.
Scoreless since early in the first half, Brown gained steam with three minutes remaining when KK Haug ’23 attacked in an open two-on-one with White. White’s shot was swatted away by Hogan.
When asked about the depth of her roster, McNeill said, “the starters have put a lot of minutes in the last couple of weeks and I think you (could) see it in their legs a little bit today. It’s good that we have the depth that we do because they raise the level when they go out on the field.”
The game closed with a final score of 1-0 as the Bears clinched the Crosstown Cup and improved to an overall record of 5-0-1.
Following the disappointment of Thursday’s win, McNeill praised the tenacity of her team against the Friars. “It was a hard fought battle,” she said. “We executed our game plan very well. A game like this is about minimizing mistakes and capitalizing on (the opponent’s).”
“It’s great that we’re getting the results — it’s even better that we’re getting these shut-outs,” McNeill said. “We almost have to look at these games as the preseason to Ivy season and just get better every game.”
The Bears return to action against Fairfield University at Stevenson-Pincince Field Wednesday.