Managing just three shots on target, the attack of the women’s soccer team (7-2-1, 2-0 Ivy League) was far from its free-flowing best Saturday in their 1-0 victory against Columbia (5-3-1, 1-1) at Stevenson-Pincince Field.
But a moment of magic in the first half’s stormy conditions from forward Brittany Raphino ’23, combined with a strong defensive performance, allowed the Bears to grab a win in a hard-fought, physical game that had 27 combined fouls.
“I don’t think it was a great performance,” said defender Kayla Duran ’23.
“But given the weather and knowing that Ivy League wins are hard to come by, we’re happy to have that win.”
The Bears began the game in a 4-4-2 formation and struggled to maintain possession and switch fields, with both teams resorting to booting the ball down the left side.
But in the 18th minute, Head Coach Kia McNeill moved to a 3-5-2 structure. The additional midfielder, Evelyn Calhoon ’24, allowed Brown to better gain a foothold in the game.
“I don’t feel like we felt very threatened by their forwards necessarily, so just pushing an extra number up into the midfield allowed us to (put) a little bit more pressure,” McNeill said. “The team responded well to that, but I do wish we generated more off of that formation change.”
Shortly after the formation shift, Calhoon took on an ambitious shot from more than 30 yards out. It was blocked down by a Columbia defender and landed for Raphino, who with her first touch fired a left-footed shot that nestled into the bottom corner.
The Bears still needed a sure-handed save from goalie Bella Schopp ’26 on a powerful Columbia header to enter the half with the lead intact.
In the second half, the Bears kept the ball in Columbia’s half for long stretches, but fluid attacking play was elusive.
“It was pretty congested centrally at times,” McNeill said. “We needed to get the ball out wide and get better service into the box.”
The Bears had seven corner kicks in the half, one of which led to a powerful Raphino header in the 69th minute that went wide, but the team could not create consistent chances to add to their lead.
“I think we could have capitalized more on our corner kicks. (That’s) definitely going to be a focal point going into practice this week,” McNeill said.
Still, outside of a cross that Schopp misjudged in the 85th minute, Columbia made few threats at Brown’s goal, allowing the Bears to hold on for the win.
“We didn’t come out like we wanted,”Raphino said. “It tells a lot about a team when you can have not such a good day and still get the three points.”
The Bears will next face their toughest tests yet in the quest for a third straight Ivy League title in a game at Princeton (7-4, 1-1) next Saturday and a match up home against No. 25 Harvard (7-0-2, 1-0-1) on Oct. 15. Ranked behind Brown at third and second respectively in the Ivy League preseason poll, the Tigers and the Crimson also joined Brown in earning NCAA tournament berths last season.
Both teams dropped points in the opening week of Ivy League play, with Princeton losing to Yale 1-0 and Harvard drawing against Penn 1-1.
“We’re in the driver’s seat right now; we can control our own destiny,” McNeill said. “There’s not a lot of Ivy teams that can say that.”