The women’s soccer team defeated Penn in a thrilling 1-0 shutout Saturday at the newly renamed Stevenson/Pincince Field, as Brown commemorated retiring Head Coach Phil Pincince and the departure of more than 60 combined years of Brown soccer experience among him and the team’s six seniors.
The Bears (6-7-2, 2-3-1 Ivy) had several scoring opportunities early in the game but failed to convert, though their defense held Penn (6-4-5, 1-2-3) scoreless as well. In the 20th minute, Michelle Jolson ’16, playing in her final home game, drew a foul inside Penn’s 18-yard box, resulting in a penalty shot. Carly Gould ’17, the team’s leading scorer with six goals on the season, took the shot and buried it easily, giving Brown a 1-0 lead.
Penn goalkeeper Kalijah Terilli “never had a chance,” said broadcaster Mike Rubin, referring to the perfect placement of Gould’s shot.
Given the lead, the Bears’ defense took over. Penn took 16 shots, seven on net, but thanks to a strong back line, led by captain Sarah Moody ’16, the majority of these shots were easily turned away.
“We put it on the line today, and that really showed in the way that we played,” said Jillian DeSimone ’16. “When emotions get involved, we play even harder, and we really did that today.”
Against “an Ivy League opponent, it’s always going to be a battle, and it’s crucial to get that first goal,” said Hogan Vivier ’16. “We scored first, and we were not losing this game.”
The Bears’ defense was helped yet again by a stunning performance from goalie Christine Etzel ’19. Facing seven shots on net, she turned them all away for her fourth shutout of the season.
In the 33rd minute, off a corner kick from Penn’s Sasha Stephens, Olivia Blaber lined up a header, looking to tie the score. The shot was too high to block conventionally, and Etzel was forced to be inventive: At the apex of her jump, she tipped the ball backwards, off her own crossbar and back into play, where it was cleared out of danger and into Brown possession.
It was “maybe the save of the season,” Rubin said.
With the shutout, Etzel’s goals-against average fell to 0.99. Her save percentage is .837, and the Bears have a .500 record when she starts in net, despite scoring only 16 goals in 15 games.
With the win, the Bears can finish with a .500 record if they defeat Yale next weekend, having reclaimed what seemed like a lost season after they did not score in their first four Ivy matches. Erin Katz ’16, who has paced the Bears all season in terms of intensity and competitive spirit, cited a recent moment as a turning point in the season.
“I think it was the Cornell game,” she said. “At that point, we hadn’t even scored in Ivy League (play), and to hold on and win in the second overtime, to put it away, that’s when we said, ‘Okay, we’re really strong right now.’”
In the win against Penn, the Bears pulled off one of their best team games of the season, fighting for every ball and executing every play. Even as their offensive attack faltered in the second half, the defense demonstrated some of its most competitive and aggressive play of the season in holding Penn scoreless. Perhaps due to the emotions of the game, the Bears played with an intensity unmatched at any other point this season.
“This meant so much — it was our senior game, and we really wanted to win for each other,” Jolson said. “Before the game started, in our pregame huddle, we were talking about how we were doing this for each other, doing it for (Pincince), doing it for our classmates and for the entire team.”
Pincince, coaching the last home game of his 39-year tenure, was a focal point of the game. A banner reading “Thank you Phil!” hung from the building opposite the field, and after the victory, Pincince’s players emptied the cooler on him. In a special Senior Night postgame interview, DeSimone offered some parting words to the departing icon.
“We just want to say thank you so much,” she said. “These past four years have been a great experience for all of us, and we know that this program is going to miss you. On behalf of all of Brown women’s soccer, we want to thank you so much for all the dedication and passion that you put toward this program, and we really appreciate it.”
Moody, who started every game this year, said that despite Pincince’s retirement, the team will remain strong.
Pincince “is gone, and things are going to change, but the group of girls that we have is so strong,” Moody said.
As the departing senior class left their home field for the final time, Charlotte Beach ’16 summed up her experience playing for Brown and Pincince: “Brown soccer in one phrase? Win every battle.”