BOSTON — This weekend was a true early-season test for the men's soccer team (4-0-2). The Bears welcomed a nationally ranked opponent to Stevenson Field on Friday and then went on the road to face a squad looking for an upset. But Brown preserved its unbeaten record after securing wins against both No. 24 Indiana (3-3) and Boston University (3-3-1).
Brown 2, No. 24 Indiana 1
Bruno was up against a perennial national powerhouse on Friday night. The Hoosiers have appeared in 34 national tournaments all-time and have been crowned national champions seven times. But Brown handed the Hoosiers a 2-1 defeat after a late goal by forward Sean Rosa '12.5.
"I think it's a great feeling. They are as good a team as we've seen in a long time," said defender David Walls '11. "It's the first time we've been behind this year."
A wet field proved problematic for both teams early on, with many players falling. But Indiana's Andy Adlard scored midway through the first half. The goal was the first allowed by Paul Grandstrand '11 this season.
The Bears would settle into their game during the second half. Just five minutes in, midfielder Thomas McNamara '13 hammered a shot into the back of the net from 15 yards out.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, it looked like the game was going to end in a draw. But the Bears were able to connect, as a pass to Rosa found the back of an empty Indiana net. Hoosier goalie Luis Soffner was still on the ground after diving for an attempted shot by Brown.
"It feels amazing," Rosa said about his game-winning goal. "Especially after the first (half), where the keeper got my first one, I just knew one more was going to come."
The intensity was high throughout the matchup. Several hard slide tackles were made by both teams, but no cards were shown by the referee. After some exchanging of words between both squads, a member of the Indiana team attempted to tackle the ball out of midfielder John Okafor's '11 hands.
After the game, the head coaches reflected on the close contest.
"Players executed the plays very well," said Head Coach Pat Laughlin. "There was never a moment where we weren't playing well. Total team effort."
Things were not as bright on Indiana's sideline.
"You know, tonight we obviously didn't play our best game," said Indiana Head Coach Todd Yeagley. "Brown was able to capitalize on our mistakes."
Brown 2, Boston University 0
Sunday evening's matchup at Nickerson Field was an ugly one for both teams. Ultimately, under the lights in Boston, the Bears were able to overcome first-half difficulties to secure the victory.
"It was a tough game." Laughlin said. "We knew that coming off of the Indiana game and the amount of energy needed, it was going to be tough."
The story of the night was the depth of the Brown bench. Nineteen Bears saw action on the night, with both goals being scored by reserve players.
Forward T.J. Popolizio '12 fired in the first goal after a long pass from Grandstrand, and midfielder Bobby Belair '13 knocked in a header from midfielder Jay Hayward '12 to give the Bears a two-goal advantage, which stood until the final whistle.
Bruno had trouble passing in the first half, and the Terriers were able to control the ball for a majority of the opening 45 minutes. BU had several shots on goal, testing the abilities of Grandstrand. But a BU penalty kick missed high, and a shot on goal ricocheted off the crossbar, keeping the Terriers off the scoreboard.
Laughlin noted his team's early struggles.
"We only had one practice on the turf field, and I think it showed," Laughlin said. "But once we settled down, these guys were able to get it done."
Brown's shutout effort was led by defender Ryan McDuff '13, who cleared several attempts by the opposing team in frenetic stretches near the Bears' goal.
"It's humbling," McDuff said of being such a young leader for the team. "Week in and week out, we young guys have to bring the energy and maturity. We have to learn how to practice so that we get the most out of it."
The matchup between Brown and BU is a familiar one for both programs. The series originally started in 1969 and occurred annually until 1997. The rivalry was renewed in 2003, and the teams have battled every year since.