At a game where the first 200 people in attendance received a cupcake to commemorate the University’s 258th birthday, it was forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23 that gave the Bruno fans the biggest reason to celebrate.
On the back of two goals from Seelenfreund, the No. 25 women’s soccer team (5-1-1) defeated Providence College (2-5-1) 3-0 Thursday to claim the Crosstown Cup, given to the winner of the annual matchup between the intracity foes.
The Bears dominated play from start to finish, recording 17 shots to the Friars’ three and six efforts on target compared to just one from Providence.
Seelenfreund provided the difference on the scoreboard, netting a well-placed breakaway effort and a dazzling free kick to make her goal tally five in the last four games and seven over the entire season.
“I think what’s been working is taking players on when I have the chance,” Seelenfreund said.
The Bears played with five midfielders in a 3-5-2 formation throughout the game. The wide players often pinched in defensively — a tactical decision that allowed them to congest the center of the field and prevented the Friars from playing through and causing turnovers for Seelenfreund and forward Brittany Raphino ’23 to capitalize on.
“That was a major focus,” said midfielder Sheyenne Allen ’23. “We talked about doing that in our pregame film and we wanted to win the ball (in the midfield), play wide and exploit their weaknesses.”
The tactics provided dividends in just the first few minutes, when the Friars were unable to complete more than a couple of passes in a row in a crowded midfield. Seelenfreund’s interception on a Providence goal kick opened an opportunity for forward Miya Grant-Clavijo ’25, who picked up the ball and dribbled into the box before being tackled near the goal line.
The narrow defensive posture also led to the Bears’ first goal. Midfielder Zoe Maxwell ’23, who was playing on the right flank, came inside and won the ball back before it dropped to Allen’s feet. Allen then sent a long ball to Raphino, who brought it down while fighting off a pair of defenders. Raphino then sent a perfectly weighted pass behind the defense and into the path of a streaking Seelenfreund. Taking a couple more touches, Seelenfreund placed a shot with enough pace to pass through the goalkeeper’s fingers into the side netting.
Just seven minutes later, Allen, playing on the opposite side of Maxwell, won her own tackle, driving up the wing, before finding Seelenfreund just entering the attacking third. Seelenfreund drove with pace toward the penalty box, forcing a Providence defender to push her from behind, setting up a free kick ten yards outside the box and even with the middle of the goal.
With both Allen and Seelenfreund standing behind the ball, it was Seelenfreund that took it, unleashing a majestic curler that the Providence goalkeeper helplessly watched nestle into the top right corner of the net.
“We actually lined up that (free kick situation) yesterday in practice in a very similar position,” Seelenfreund said. “I’ve been working on free kicks a lot.”
The match marked Seelenfreund’s fourth straight game with a goal. Her season tally has almost reached the eight goals she scored the entirety of last season.
“Ava has been unbelievable,” said Head Coach Kia McNeil. “I think she’s one of the best forwards in the country and she’s showing why. She’s probably playing the best I’ve seen her in (her) four years here.”
McNeil also highlighted the role of midfielder Evelyn Calhoon ’24 in establishing midfield dominance with the new formation.
“We dropped (Calhoun) in as a defensive mid just to help us playmake a little more and keep the game ahead of us,” McNeil said. “I thought she did a really good job of being a pivot player, allowing us to switch the point of attack (and) allowing us to keep possession of the ball, and I think that … opened up the seams for our forwards and our midfielders to exploit Providence.”
In the second half, Providence gained a larger footing in the game, upping their press on the Bruno defense and midfield. Two hard fouls on Raphino marked a more aggressive half for the Friars, but still it was Brown with the better of the chances. In the 76th minute, midfielder Lucinda Anderson ’24 effectively killed the game. Defender Jessica Hinton ’24 sent a free kick from near the halfway line into the box, where the ball bobbled around until Anderson volleyed a lobbed shot into the corner of the net, for the first goal of her college career.
The victory returned the Crosstown Cup to Brown after the Friars secured a 2-1 victory with second-half goals in last season’s matchup.
“Defend the city, defend Providence,” Seelenfreund said. “It’s fun to bring the cup back to Brown.”
It also returned the Bears to the win column after they lost 3-2 to No. 22 Ohio State University and tied Northeastern University 1-1 last week.
The Bears will now look ahead to a heavyweight battle with Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma State University (6-1-1), whom Brown defeated 2-1 last season in the programs’ first-ever meeting.
“We’re excited. We know that we can play with teams like this and we think we are a team like them,” Allen said.