A women’s soccer rivalry battle for first place in the Ivy League between Brown (8-2-2, 3-0-1 Ivy League) and Harvard (8-1-3, 2-0-2) ended in a 1-1 stalemate Saturday, keeping the Bears on top of the conference with a clear path to their third consecutive league title.
Harvard has been a strong challenger during Brown’s two-season run as Ivy League champion. “I don’t know if I can even describe it,” said defender Kayla Duran ’22.5 regarding games against Harvard. “It’s definitely a battle.”
“It’s everything. That’s why we come play D-1 soccer at a big program,” said forward Brittany Raphino ’23. Raphino scored for the Bears Saturday, repeating tradition after she scored against Harvard in both 2021 and 2019.
Because Harvard tied Penn 1-1 to open Ivy League play, Brown remains in sole possession of first place.
In the first half of Saturday’s game, Harvard controlled the majority of possession in their 4-3-3 formation, often finding space in dangerous areas outside of Brown’s box. Brown relied on three central defenders who denied space behind, with Duran making multiple key slide tackles to deny through balls on goal.
“We needed to really put it to Harvard,” Duran said. “They like to be a little bit technical so we had to really get them off their game by being physical.”
On the other end, Brown played a more direct style true to the Bears’ attacking identity, launching lob balls for Raphino and forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23 to run onto.
About 17 minutes in, Raphino burst through the left side of Harvard’s defense before cutting the ball back at the penalty spot for Seelenfreund — whose shot landed wide.
Following a long ball in the 22nd minute that landed in the front of the Harvard box, a Crimson center back gave the ball away to Raphino. Raphino then created a 2-on-1 as she drove forward with Seelenfreund open up to her left. Raphino feigned a pass, causing the lone defender to lean toward Seelenfreund and opening a path to goal. Raphino seized the opportunity and rocketed a shot past the Harvard goalie.
“I juked to see if she would go with Ava and she ended up doing so. I knew I had my lane to the right and it was just one versus one with the goalie from there,” Raphino said.
But in the second half, Brown’s defense, secure throughout most of the first 45 minutes, became porous. The ball rarely left the Bears’ defensive zone, with defenders resorting to long heaves up the field to release the pressure.
“We were up a goal. Naturally, they (started) sending numbers forward, they (started) chasing the game a bit. So (we were) playing a little more defensive,” said Head Coach Kia McNeill.
In the 70th minute, Harvard forward Angela Caloia flicked the ball over a defender on the edge of the Brown box before firing a left-footed volley that went just wide. Shortly afterwards, a shot from Crimson forward Hannah Green took a sharp deflection, forcing Brown goalie Bella Schopp ’26 to make a diving reaction save.
Less than a minute later, the Crimson finally broke through. Harvard’s Ainsley Ahmadian controlled the ball 25 yards out and unleashed a biting shot that flew into the top left corner of the goal.
“Anytime you’re defending for 45 minutes, it’s inevitable that they’re going to break you down once,” McNeil said.
For the final 15 minutes, Brown dropped even farther back, seemingly giving up on attacking. But the Bears hung on for as long as possible.
In “the last 15 minutes, if we could (have gotten) a counter or a fast break, that (would have been) a great thing,” McNeil said. “But we’re still at the top of the Ivy League and I think that’s our first and foremost goal.”
With Harvard only two points behind in the Ivy League, Brown cannot afford to stumble in its remaining Ivy play against Cornell, Penn and Yale.
Harvard will face Princeton, Dartmouth and Columbia in the coming weeks.
“We’re still in the driver’s seat,” Raphino said. “We’re still in control of our own destiny to get a 3-peat.”