The men's soccer team earned a victory in its conference home opener Saturday, defeating the defending Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers in overtime 3-2.
It was a gratifying win for the Bears (6-4-1, 1-1 Ivy) after two recent overtime disappointments. The team lost its league opener to Columbia a week earlier in double overtime 2-1 and battled No. 9 St. John's to a 0-0 draw in another double overtime thriller last Tuesday.
"Princeton is the defending Ivy League champ, and I think we realized with the Columbia game that the margins between a loss and a victory are very small in the Ivy League," said Co-captain Ryan McDuff '13. "It's good to get into an overtime game again, like against Columbia, but this time come out on the right side of things."
The Bears set the tempo early against the Tigers (2-7-1, 0-2), getting on the scoreboard first in the 31st minute with a goal from Evan Coleman '12, his first of the season. But the Tigers responded with a score of their own less than five minutes later on a penalty kick, and the teams entered halftime knotted at 1-1.
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead after the break on an unorthodox goal. Princeton's Matt Sanner sent an aerial pass into the box, forcing Bears' keeper Sam Kernan-Schloss '13 to stay home in the middle of the goal to prevent an anticipated headed shot. But the bending ball went through traffic untouched, and the unintentional shot wound up in the net past Kernan-Schloss' last-gasp dive.
But with the pressure mounting and time running short, T.J. Popolizio '12 headed home a clutch goal for the Bears in the 82nd minute, tying the game at two goals apiece. Neither team was able to convert in the closing minutes, sending the game into overtime.
The memory of coming away winless in their last two overtime matchups was fresh in the players' minds, and McDuff said the squad learned from its previous mistakes to come away with the win against Princeton.
"With that loss against Columbia, we didn't approach the overtime well," he said. "The team has really come together and found its identity and gotten back to the defensive basics that traditionally Brown men's soccer has been about. Now, when we head into overtime or a game in general, the back line is confident that we can get the job done, and that will give our offense a chance to win."
The defense was unrelenting in extra time, and just 1:23 into the overtime period, Popolizio scored the golden goal with his head on a set piece. On a free kick from outside the 18-yard box, Co-captain Taylor Gorman '12 floated the ball into a crowd of players and the 5-foot-7-inch Popolizio again outleapt his defender and drove the ball home to seal the victory. The score marked Popolizio's eighth of the season, and his fourth game-winning goal of the year. He was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his recent strong performance.
McDuff said he was proud of his teammates' resiliency to bounce back from a goal down to clinch the overtime win.
"It's a veteran team, so the guys kept their composure very well," he said. "I think it's the first time we've come back from a deficit and won the game, so it was just about keeping constant pressure on them."
The squad will continue its quest for an Ivy League title when it travels to Cambridge to face a struggling Harvard team (2-7-1, 0-2) Saturday at 7 p.m.