The men’s soccer team went toe-to-toe with Providence College (5-1-1, No. 24 in NCAA rankings) at Stevenson-Pincince Field Wednesday night, keeping the Friars off the board in a defensive first half. But after allowing the Friars to knock in a set piece goal in the 51st minute, it was all Providence, and the Bears (2-4) lost their third straight game by a score of 3-0.
Both teams played conservatively in the first half, sticking to their formations and not allowing many dangerous counterattacks. Threatening chances to score were few and far between for each side, as Providence generated the only two shots on goal for either team in the half. The first of those shots was a crossing shot by the Friars’ Gevork Diarbian, which was comfortably covered up by Brown goalkeeper Max Waldau ’22. The second shot on goal in the half was launched by Simon Triantafilou, but a deflection by the Bears’ defense slowed the pace of the ball and made it easy for Waldau to save. Providence’s best chance to score before the break came when Friar Brendan McSorley fired a powerful shot that clanged off the left goalpost, but the Brown defense held firm once again. While Bruno struggled to put together any serious attacks in the half, multiple steals by midfielder and captain Derek Waleffe ’22 and Waldau’s strong performance in goal slowed the Friars down enough to keep the score 0-0 at halftime.
“As a whole, we played well in the first half,” said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. “I thought we did a good job with the ball, good possession, I thought we defended well, I thought we were organized, I thought we very much were sticking to the plan. And it was working.”
But Brown’s stout first half defense was nowhere to be found after break. Just six minutes into the second half, Providence’s Luis Garcia hit a corner kick into the middle of Brown’s penalty box, leading to a scrum for the ball as it fell to the turf. The Friars’ Ramzi Qawasmy came out on top, poking the ball into the net for a 1-0 Providence lead.
“A silly goal like that to happen, we just got upset for a minute, and then we stopped, we just panicked,” said defender and Brown men’s soccer captain Will Crain ’22. “We thought we had to get a goal, so we had to go for it and that resulted in worse defending.”
Waleffe emphasized that the Bears should not have felt down after falling behind. “In the first half it could have been anyone’s game. Even in the second half, 1-0, off a corner kick, it’s not like they scored a wonder goal, they scored a corner kick,” he said.
Midfielder Kyle Gee ’25 had an opportunity to even the scoreline, bursting between two Providence defenders for a potential breakaway. But Gee could not immediately corral the pass intended for him, and the ball was stolen back by the two defenders, ending the threat. Another chance for Bruno to tie the game came with 18 minutes left, as two defenders fell down in Providence’s penalty box but the referee declined to call a penalty kick.
Crain attributed the Bears’ difficulty in breaking through the Providence defense to the Friars’ formation. The Friars play “three centerbacks, five (midfielders), so out wide they have it pretty covered, and then in the middle it’s kind of hard to get to,” he said.
As Brown’s offense was just beginning to show promise, the wind was taken out of its sails when Providence’s Thomas Tulgar fired a screamer into the top left corner of Brown’s goal. Providence went on to dominate the deflated Bears for the remainder of the game. Just two minutes later, a Friars shot clanged off the crossbar, but McSorley controlled the rebound and sent it past Waldau for a 3-0 Providence lead. The Friars maintained their offensive pressure until the final whistle despite their commanding lead, nearly tacking on a fourth goal as they combined for two shots in the 89th minute, one of which hit the crossbar.
While Waleffe was encouraged by his team’s first half performance, he was frustrated by the Bears’ second half struggles. “That’s a top 25 team. We played toe-to-toe with them for 45 minutes,” he said. “We just have to figure out how to do it for 90. We know we’re good enough.”
Waleffe said that the Bears need to improve on their “lack of toughness” in order to beat top teams like Providence. “We believe for 45 (minutes). And for some reason the second 45 we don’t believe. We’ve got to figure out how to believe for 90.”
Bruno will conclude its non-conference schedule at Siena College Saturday before taking on Columbia in its Ivy League opener Oct. 2.
“The next game is the game that matters the most to us,” Laughlin said. “We have to be ready to play the next game and we have to make sure we come with the same type of intensity and energy that we came with tonight.”