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Women's soccer defeats Princeton 3-1 in showdown of Ivy powerhouses

Victory keeps Brown undefeated in conference play ahead of matchup with #18 Harvard

<p>In the 58th minute, Duran scored her first goal of the season off an assist from Maxwell to push the Bears’ lead to two.</p>

In the 58th minute, Duran scored her first goal of the season off an assist from Maxwell to push the Bears’ lead to two.

The women’s soccer team (8-3, 3-0 Ivy) dominated Princeton (9-2-1, 2-1 Ivy) Saturday at home in a key victory over an Ivy League rival that had been on the brink of the national top 25. With this game, the Bears have now won four straight games, including all three Ivy League contests.

Forward Brittany Raphino ’23, forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5 and midfielder Kayla Duran ’22 accounted for Brown's three scores. Midfielder Zoe Maxwell ’22.5 was credited with assists on Raphino and Seelenfreund’s goals. Goalkeeper Kayla Thompson ’21.5 added five saves and only allowed one goal on a penalty kick to help the Bears to the victory. Harvard — ranked 18th nationally — and Brown are now the only two remaining undefeated teams in the conference heading into a pivotal matchup in Cambridge this Saturday.

The contest was a physical one from start to finish, with both teams starting out aggressively and not letting up. That physicality resulted in a total of 24 fouls being called in the game — 14 against the Bears and 10 against the Tigers. A total of four yellow cards were issued, two per team, during a 10-minute stretch early in the second half.

“We were told to go at Princeton because they (were) going to come at us,” Seelenfreund said. “It was physical both ways.”

Brown used this early energy to its advantage, leading to a 10th-minute score from Raphino, her sixth on the season, to give the Bears an early lead.

Brown’s 1-0 lead was threatened late in the first half when a Princeton attack fell just short. Amid a chaotic situation in the box, the Bears narrowly avoided giving up a score when the ball took a lucky bounce off the crossbar and ended up in Thompson’s arms, rather than the back of the net. “It was a mistake for me. I came flying out when I shouldn't have,” Thompson said of the play. “(I was) lucky that it bounced off the post and fell in my lap. Sometimes things fall in your favor.”

Because of that lucky bounce and Thompson’s quick reaction, Brown was able to hold onto a 1-0 lead heading into halftime; despite strong attacks from both sides, neither team was able to score for the remainder of the first half.

The game’s physicality ramped up even further in the second half, leading to the four yellow cards and calls from both sides for more to be issued. In the 58th minute, amid this stretch, Duran scored her first goal of the season off an assist from Maxwell to push the Bears’ lead to two. Duran’s goal kicked off a scoring spree: Only a few minutes later, in the 63rd minute, Seelenfreund drove downfield and fired a rocket into the top corner of the net beyond the outstretched arms of Tigers goalkeeper Grace Barbara to push the Bears’ lead to 3-0. Seelenfreund’s goal, her sixth of the year, gave Princeton its first three-goal deficit this season.

Given the competitiveness of the game, having a three-score cushion against a team as strong as the Tigers helped take some of the pressure off Brown, according to Seelenfreund. “To go up 3-0 against Princeton, that's something in itself,” she said. “It really gave us some energy (and) gave our defense a break.”

But shortly after Seelenfreund’s goal, Princeton showed that the game wasn’t over yet. In the 66th minute, Gabi Juarez scored off a penalty kick, bringing the score to 3-1 and cutting the Bears’ lead to just two goals. After the score, Brown’s defense held firm against repeated Tigers attacks, leading to a Bears victory and a final score of 3-1.

Head Coach Kia McNeill emphasized the importance of winning every game in Ivy League play, given that the conference winner is determined based on regular season records. “We treat it like we're in a seven-game tournament right now and we advanced through the third round, and now we're into the fourth round,” she said. “Every game that we play is like a championship in the Ivy League. We look at every game as a must-win situation.”

Thompson similarly emphasized the importance of a victory over another Ivy League Championship contender. “Princeton was one of the three undefeated teams (in conference play) going into this (game), so it was a huge win for us,” she said. “Getting three on such a good team is fantastic.”

Brown’s matchup with a difficult Princeton team is followed by another crucial game against #18 Harvard, but McNeill is glad to be coming off a win as her team prepares for Saturday’s matchup. “We knew that we're probably one of the only teams in this league who can play with Princeton,” she said. “This is a huge confidence booster for us going forward into a tough game against Harvard.”

“We just have everybody really dialed (in) from the start of the week to the end of the week, and I thought our team really executed our game plan against Princeton,” McNeill added. “Now we get to enjoy it and then get back at it (to prepare) for Harvard.”

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