The Brown women’s soccer team (6-3) came away victorious in their Ivy League opener, defeating rival Dartmouth (4-3-1) by a 4-1 scoreline Sunday evening. The crucial victory over an in-conference foe was the second win in a row for the Bears following back-to-back losses in non-conference play. Brown was paced by two goals from star forward Brittany Raphino ’23, with forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5 and midfielder Zoe Maxwell ’22.5 also finding the back of the net.
The Bears were constantly getting shots off against Charlotte Cyr of the Big Green, with Brown’s 20 total shots more than double Dartmouth’s eight. While the game was a physical one with multiple hard fouls, no cards were issued against either team. Ultimately, it was an aggressive offensive approach that made the difference for the Bears. They took an early 1-0 lead in the seventh minute when Raphino headed in a pass from Maxwell to score. The Big Green came close to responding and tying the game, but a sliding stop from defender Lauren Hinton ’22 protected Brown’s lead. Not long after, in the 17th minute, Raphino scored once again off a throw-in from midfielder Maesyn G’Bye ’22, pushing the Bears’ lead to 2-0.
Raphino emphasized the importance of getting off to such a fast start. “In Ivy League (play), one minor mistake can be the game, so getting something early and being able to sit back a little bit and take the pressure off was awesome for us,” she said.
The Big Green responded in the 32nd minute when midfielder Maddie Mills was finally able to put the ball in the net after multiple impressive stops by Kayla Thompson ’21.5 and the Brown defense. For the rest of the first half and much of the second half, neither teams’ offense could get anything going, though the Bears came close on multiple occasions. They also experienced multiple injury scares, as midfielder Gianna De Priest ’25 had to be helped off the field and did not return. Raphino also briefly exited with what she described as calf cramping but was able to return.
Brown’s repeated attacks finally paid off in the 66th minute when Seelenfreund was fouled hard and scored on her subsequent penalty kick to push the lead to 3-1. After more than 30 minutes of play without a goal, Seelenfreund’s penalty kick score was a pivotal point in the game, according to midfielder Kayla Duran ’22. “It was huge,” she said. “Ava came up big, and it really gave us some momentum.”
The Bears added another insurance goal in the 78th minute when Maxwell scored off an impressive pass from midfielder Laryssa Hamblen ’23. Despite an aggressive Dartmouth attack, Brown hung on for an impressive 4-1 win.
The fact that the team was able to score four goals was an impressive feat, according to Raphino, and shows the team’s potential. “We can put goals away on any team,” she said. “Our coach was saying (how) it’s so hard to put four away in an Ivy League game because of the intensity and the talent, so we can do that to anybody.”
Head Coach Kia McNeill praised her team’s toughness and resilience against a strong Ivy League opponent. “Every (Ivy League) game is almost like a championship, and you have to be willing to be aggressive and take those tackles and take those fouls,” she said. “I thought our team played really well. Scoring four goals against a good team like (Dartmouth) is a good sign for us going forward and a great way to start Ivy League (play).”
Because the game was rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday, the Bears will have one fewer day to rest before taking on Columbia in New York on Saturday. The team will focus on rest and strategy ahead of that game, according to McNeill. “I think we’ve gotta just rest and recover these next 24 hours,” she said. “I don’t think that practices are gonna be as intense (this week). It’s gonna be a lot more tactical-focused and video-focused (to) try to save (the players’) legs a little bit.”
Ultimately, the team is ready for Columbia and excited to start off conference play with a win, Duran said. “It’s a huge start ... We’re away next weekend, so having that momentum to get us through is huge for us. It was a great team win.”
Brown women’s soccer will take on Columbia Saturday, Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. They will return to Stevenson-Pincince Field Saturday, Oct. 9 to host Princeton, also at 3 p.m. Both games will be available to stream on ESPN+.