"We play for keeps." This has been the theme of the men's soccer season. In almost every interview — be it coach or player — playing for keeps has been a major focus.
While the No. 22 Bears (11-3-3) may have missed their chance to take the Ivy League, they will get their chance to "play for keeps" for the national title. Brown takes on No. 25 Boston College (10-4-5) Thursday night in a first-round matchup in the NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament.
The game will start at 7 p.m. on Stevenson Field, and goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand '11 said he feels that the home-field advantage is going to pay off for his team, just as it has all season.
"Take a look at our record. Now, take a look at our home record," he said. "There is a reason that we are undefeated at home. You can call it the 12th man, you can call it home superpowers. You can call it whatever you want, but that's the fans. Teams don't want to play Brown, and teams especially don't want to play Brown at home."
The three teams that beat Bruno this season — Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth — all made the national tournament in different sections of the bracket. With two of those losses coming in Brown's last three games of the season, a lack of momentum may be a concern as the team heads into the playoffs.
But Grandstrand said he is not concerned.
"I believe we have a lot of momentum. Even with those losses, we have a lot of wins — a lot of good wins," Grandstrand said. "Our first game is also against BC, a team that we have a lot of history with. On top of all of this, we have the momentum that any team has entering the NCAA tournament."
BC is a familiar opponent for Brown — Bruno narrowly leads the all-time series between the two squads with a record of 12-10-3. The teams have had memorable games in the past. In 2007, the Bears stunned the then-No. 5 Eagles with a 1-0 overtime victory at home. The Bears grabbed another 1-0 victory the next year, after which Boston College dropped Bruno from its regular season schedule.
The squad is just as familiar with the tournament as it is with Boston College. Bruno is making its 25th appearance in the 51-year history of the NCAA tournament. All but the freshmen on the team have had experience in the tournament, as the Bears have now qualified in consecutive seasons.
"It is unreal to make the tournament two years in a row," said midfielder Bobby Belair '13. "For me, it's an electrifying feeling to be in the tournament and have a shot to win the NCAA Championship. I have dreamed about having this opportunity since I was a kid."
Last season, the Bears won a thrilling 1-0 double-overtime home game against Stony Brook in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They fell to the University of North Carolina in the second round by a 2-0 margin.
Boston College is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, a perennial soccer powerhouse. The Eagles tied No. 3 Maryland and No. 21 Virginia in the regular season. They defeated No. 24 Duke in the ACC tournament before falling to No. 4 UNC in the semifinals.