The women’s soccer team (12-4, 7-0 Ivy) suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to St. John’s University (12-5-2) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday afternoon, bringing the Bears’ season to an end. Despite the tournament defeat, Brown had an accolade-filled season: 12 total wins, the team’s first ever 7-0 Ivy League record and a second consecutive Ivy League title.
The Bears also received a number of individual conference awards: Head Coach Kia McNeill was named Ivy League Coach of the Year, forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5 was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and midfielder Kayla Duran ’23 was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. Raphino and Duran, along with forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23, were First Team All-Ivy selections; goalkeeper Kayla Thompson ’21.5 and midfielder Evelyn Calhoon ’24 were Second Team selections, while defenders Cameron Brown GS and Maesyn G’Bye ’22 received honorable mentions.
The game was physical and tightly-contested from start to finish, with both teams rising to the occasion in a postseason elimination game and bringing everything they had. Brown repeatedly pressed their attack throughout the first half but were unable to find any success. An early shot by Raphino that ricocheted off a Red Storm defender posed a threat, but the attempt was ultimately defended by the St. John’s goalkeeper. Still, the Bears seemed to have the advantage, repeatedly threatening a Red Storm defense that bent but did not break all throughout the first half. In the last minutes of the half, Brown had two opportunities to score that narrowly fell short. St. John’s brought two extra defenders to the goal line in an effort to fend off a relentless Brown attack. The move paid off: The extra defenders stopped two shots by the Bears — the first by forward Sheyenne Allen ’23 and the second by Raphino — that otherwise would have evaded the goalkeeper and found the back of the net. Brown kept attacking to finish the half, but the score remained tied nil-nil at the break.
While the Bears spent much of the first half attacking, they were pushed back on their heels throughout the second. Aside from an early shot that almost went in, Bruno struggled to get good looks while the Red Storm persistently pressed on offense. Thompson and the rest of Brown’s back line were able to rebuff them, but they faced a number of dangerous situations. In the 75th minute, Thompson was drawn out of the goal and a strong shot by St. John’s hit off the side iron and bounced back out, allowing the Bears to escape the situation unscathed. Brown got one last good look off a corner kick in the final minutes of regulation, but midfielder Rebecca Rosen ’22 narrowly missed a header, leading to overtime.
The Bears began overtime with the wind at their back and used it to their advantage, going on the attack almost immediately. They struggled to make anything happen on their early attempts; at one point, Raphino was fouled right outside the box, leaving Brown with a short corner kick instead of a potentially game-winning penalty kick opportunity. The Bears threatened again in the overtime period: Raphino streaked down the field chasing the ball with no defenders other than the St. John’s goalkeeper. Much to the dismay of the Stevenson-Pincince Field crowd, the Red Storm goalkeeper won the footrace and got to the ball before Raphino had what would have been a golden opportunity to put the game away. St. John’s went on the offensive in the final minutes of overtime, and one good look was all it took as Ava Collins of the Red Storm scored the game-winning goal in the 99th minute, handing the Bears a stunning loss and bringing an end to a historic season.
McNeill emphasized the key role defense played in the outcome. “It was a tough, hard-fought game on both sides,” she said. “I thought both defenses played tremendous(ly).”
The game was even for all 99 minutes, which the stat sheet reflects. St. John’s had six shots on goal to Brown’s five; both teams recorded five saves. The Bears had nine corner kicks to the Red Storm’s one but struggled to capitalize on those opportunities. St. John’s was called for nine fouls and the game’s lone yellow card, while Brown was charged with seven fouls and no cards.
Raphino emphasized that, no matter how difficult the defeat may have been, the team is still proud of its overall season. “This loss can’t take away from the history we made this season. We went 7-0 in the Ivy League for the first time, which took so much hard work,” she said. “We had many players recognized by the League because of all the success we had. This loss definitely won’t cloud any of that.”
McNeill expressed disappointment over the way the team’s senior leaders’ careers ended, considering them instrumental to the team’s growth and success. “I’m not happy with the result today, but I really don’t think it can take away from the season that this team has had, especially our senior leadership,” she said. “They’ve been incredible from day one (of) freshman year until today and have really helped us change this program and move the needle forward.”
G’Bye, as a senior, reflected on what the team meant to her over her four years. “I think that a goal that we’ve had since I’ve come in is just (to) make each other better. We’ve even said a million times: We are our toughest opponent,” she said. “It shows today because ... (it) just came to (which team) was going to finish. We put it all on the line today.”
Despite the difficult loss of senior leaders, McNeill has high hopes for the future of the team. “It’s exciting for us to be returning a lot of good players next season as well. I do feel like the senior class (has) been tremendous for us; they’re big shoes to fill,” she said. “But it’s really their job to pass the torch down to the next young leaders ... and really keep the culture going. I think we’re going to be in good hands going forward.”
Raphino echoed McNeill’s optimism about next year’s team. “We have a strong team coming back,” she said. “We’re going to have some big losses defensively and offensively, but I know we have great players who are more than capable (of stepping) into some big roles.”
Peter Swope is the senior editor of digital engagement for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. He previously served as a Sports section editor and has also written stories for University News. Peter is a junior from New Jersey studying history.