In an anticlimactic season finale, the men’s soccer team fell to Dartmouth 2-0, dashing Brown’s hopes of a share of the Ivy League title, while clinching one for the host Big Green — its third straight. With its win against Columbia earlier in the season, Dartmouth (8-4-5, 5-1-1 Ivy) also secured the Ancient Eight’s automatic NCAA tournament bid. For the Bears (8-8-1, 3-3-1), the season ended on a flat note, dropping them to .500 in conference and overall play.
“There was a lot on the line,” said Christian Rodriguez ’17. “The guys competed really well and everyone left it all on the field, which is all you can ask for.”
In recent history, the Bears have found it hard to crack their northern foe, amassing only one win in their last six matches. The lone win came last season, and Bruno hoped to start a new trend of beating the Big Green with this contest.
To make things even harder, Dartmouth also boasts the stingiest defense in the league, allowing only 0.71 goals per game and sporting a 83.3 save percentage. In conference play, the backline is especially tough, conceding a mere two goals in its last five matches. Though Bruno was scoring at a higher clip than its opponent, it was always going to be a battle of which defense would cave first.
Both teams came out strong, hoping to impress in their season finales. It was the Big Green who had the first threatening chances of the match. Justin Donawa — who would prove to be a nuisance all night for the Bears — used his pace to latch onto a pass and get behind some Brown defenders. Fortunately for Bruno, Erik Hanson ’17 scampered out and made a huge save to keep the game tied. Emmanuel Arteaga followed that up three minutes later with a shot that just went wide of the post.
It was not until the 19th minute that the Bears were able to take their first shot, recorded by Nico Lozada ’18. They slowly started to inch their way back into the game but still found it tough to keep meaningful possession. Matthew Chow ’19 tested the Dartmouth goalkeeper for the first time in the 34th minute, but he was up for the challenge.
The Big Green volleyed a shot just above the goal before breaking the deadlock. Dartmouth sliced through the Brown backline with some skillful interplay that found Noah Paravinci open at the top of the box. He only needed one touch to slot the ball in the bottom right corner and give the hosts the lead just four minutes before the halftime whistle.
It was more of the same at the beginning of the second half, with the Bears still backpedaling and trying to keep themselves within striking distance. Within the first 10 minutes, Donawa headed a ball right into Hanson’s arms and also blasted in a dangerous cross that was redirected just wide.
The Bears were still looking to find a more consistent rhythm in the match but could only manage to draw fouls from the Big Green. On the other end, the hosts found their insurance goal in the 68th minute.
Donawa found himself in open space at the top right edge of the box. He curled in a cross right in front of the goal to a wide open Matt Danilack, who headed it in to extend his team’s lead to two.
Down two goals against a team that only allowed four in six Ivy games, the Bears faced an uphill battle. For the rest of the match, the team tried to mount an improbable comeback, but to no avail. Rodriguez had a shot in the last minute saved, but by then it was too late anyway. The Big Green saw out the game harmlessly to secure its third consecutive Ivy championship.
“Both teams performed well defensively, but the difference was Dartmouth’s attacking play,” said Will Cross ’16.5.
For the hosts, it was delight, and for the visitors, it was dismay. Bruno’s .500 record was a step back from the 2015 campaign. The team will take solace in the fact that it still technically finished in a tie for third among the Ancient Eight, but it likely would have finished fourth if the Harvard men’s soccer team’s season had not been cancelled early. The Crimson were shut down after news broke that the team had created lewd scouting reports of the incoming recruits for the women’s soccer team.
It was a roller coaster of a season, but for the eight seniors, it was not one to forget. Now the team looks ahead to next year and hopes to build upon its shortcomings — finishing chances and playing more consistently between halves, among other things — while also maintaining its strengths, like defensive fortitude.
“The team was disappointed not to have put forth a greater challenge for a tournament bid and the Ivy League title,” Cross said. “We lost several games that could have been wins or ties with more clinical finishing and just a little bit more defensive concentration.”