The men’s soccer team has plenty of motivation this week, traveling to New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth in a game with immense implications for the Ivy League standings — just not for the Bears.
The Big Green (10-4-2, 4-1-1 Ivy) sit in a tie with Princeton (10-3-3, 4-1-1) atop the conference table. The Tigers square off with Yale (1-12-3, 0-5-1) this weekend — a win for Princeton would force Dartmouth to take all three points from the Bears, something that few teams have been able to accomplish this season.
If spoiling an Ivy foe’s season was not enough motivation for the Bears, Bruno’s rivalry with the Big Green — which has developed over the past few years —should push the team to bring its best game to Hanover.
Two seasons ago, the Bears were on the verge of winning the Ivy League crown entering the last game of the season, but Dartmouth scored a controversial extra-time buzzer beater to ruin Bruno’s undefeated conference record and give the automatic NCAA tournament berth to Cornell. Then, last year, the Big Green came to Stevenson Field and dismantled the Bears 3-1 on Bruno’s Senior Day.
“Taking one from Dartmouth would be absolutely huge,” said Tim Whalen ’16. “This is a massive game for Dartmouth, so they’re going to have a lot of fans. They’ve been a rival of ours for the past couple of years, so to be able to go to their home field and steal one from them would be awesome.”
The matchup to watch in the third installment of the Brown-Dartmouth rivalry will be the Bruno defense against the Big Green offense.
The Dartmouth offense has posted 30 goals this season, which is tied for the second most in the league. The goals come from a variety of sources, with senior forward Alex Adelabu leading the team with seven and four other players contributing three apiece.
“They’ll be attacking a lot, especially if the game is not going their way early on,” Whalen said. “If it’s still tied towards the end of the game, I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw everything they have at us.”
Whalen said he expects the defense will be challenged by the Big Green, but also remarked that the back line has performed well under all types of pressure so far this season.
The Bears’ defense may be without stalwart center back Gabe Welp ’18 for the second game in a row. Welp injured his shoulder against Penn (6-8-2, 2-2-2) two weeks ago, and after the win over Yale, Head Coach Patrick Laughlin said Welp’s status for the meeting with Dartmouth was still unclear.
Luckily for Bruno, Whalen spent half of last season and the majority of his high school career as a center back, which should make his transition from the left side to the middle a smooth one.
“I’m really flexible with it,” Whalen said of playing center back. “One thing I like about playing left back is you get to go up and attack a little more, but I like both positions, and switching between them is something I’m very comfortable with.”
Saturday will also be the last opportunity for right back Alex Markes ’15 and goalkeeper Mitch Kupstas ’14.5 to earn a shutout as members of a very successful Brown backline.
Kupstas has amassed six shutouts so far this season behind the strength of his .789 save percentage. Markes has played shutdown defense all year from his right back position, making tackles and winning headers with his superior athleticism.
Markes “has played a huge role on the team since I’ve been a part of the program,” Whalen said. “He’s one of the toughest guys I know. Same goes for (Kupstas). He’s worked really hard this year to earn his spot. Their experience will definitely be missed, and they’ll be tough to replace next season.”
While the team is playing primarily for pride and development at this point, Whalen said a win over Dartmouth would be a sweet ending to a season in which the Bears have “come close to success, but often lost it at the last second.”
“I wish we could be vying for the title when we play them,” Markes said. “But it’s an Ivy League championship game in our mind, since we know that’s how they are going to come out playing. They’ve ruined our season in the past, now it’s time to return the favor.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. on what will be a chilly afternoon in Hanover.