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No. 15 women’s soccer completes Ivy League four-peat with win over Cornell

Brown wins conference title, will host Ivy tournament to determine guaranteed NCAA Tournament bid

<p>In the past three seasons, the Bears have twice advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including last season when they were defeated by University of California, Irvine.&nbsp;</p><p>Courtesy of William Maloney/Brown Athletics</p>

In the past three seasons, the Bears have twice advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including last season when they were defeated by University of California, Irvine. 

Courtesy of William Maloney/Brown Athletics

It happened again. The No. 15 Brown women’s soccer team (10-1-2, 6-0 Ivy League) are the champions of the Ivy League — just as they were last season, and the season before that and the season before that, only interrupted by the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time it was a 2-1 win over Cornell (4-4-6, 0-4-2 Ivy) in Ithaca Saturday that clinched the title, with forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5, the lynchpin of the Brunonian attack across all four championship seasons, fittingly scoring the first goal and assisting on the second. 

In a sport where consistency can be hard to come by, Brown, which is currently ranked 15th in the country, has not slipped up even once over the course of their four-year reign on top of the conference. In that span, the Bears — led by Head Coach Kia McNeill — have recorded 24 wins, two draws and exactly zero losses in conference play. 

McNeill feels “extreme gratitude and joy” when thinking about the last four seasons, she wrote in a message to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “We have such a special program, and I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it is, but it is something that you can’t put into words.”


“It honestly feels amazing; this feeling never gets old,” midfielder Sheyenne Allen ’23.5 wrote in a message to The Herald. “In the locker room after the game, (forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5), (Raphino) and I were reflecting on our freshman season. … Then, we were so excited about having one ring on our finger and now it feels so unreal to have four. It’s something we never thought of, almost like a dream!”

Such a run of success hasn’t been seen in Ivy League women’s soccer in decades: Not since the Bears were champions or co-champions for nine straight seasons from 1982 to 1990 has a school won the Ivy League four seasons in a row. Brown has now won 16 conference championships in program history, three more than Harvard, which has the second-most.

“Years ago when we proved to ourselves that we could win championships and go to the NCAA (tournament), it became a new standard for this program,” McNeill wrote. “We want to settle for nothing less than that. We rarely talk about winning, but instead, we talk about the habits and qualities we need to have to create our own success on the field. When you reinforce those habits year after year, it becomes ingrained in your culture. And that’s what we have here with Brown women’s soccer.”

Raphino’s opening goal against Cornell was the 40th of her career, tying her with Debbie Ching ’82 for the second-most in program history. It was also her fifth straight game finding the back of the net, a feat she had never previously accomplished. Last weekend against Columbia, she moved into sole possession of second place for most points in program history.

Raphino’s score came as a result of an opportunistic finish fewer than six minutes into the game. A Cornell defender whiffed on a cross into the box from forward Kira Maguire ’24, causing the Big Red goalkeeper Erica Fox to come charging out to try to slap it away. Fox made only weak contact, popping the ball out to Seelenfreund, whose shot towards the empty net was cleared off the line. But it fell right for Raphino, who slotted it into the open net.

In the 55th minute, midfielder Audrey Lam ’27 doubled the Bears’ advantage with her first career goal. Raphino received a throw-in with a defender on her back, turned and played a ball over the top of the defense for Lam. Receiving it on her chest, Lam then chipped the ball over the head of the onrushing Fox and watched it bounce into the back of the net. 

Cornell got one back in the 67th minute, but afterwards didn’t pose a particularly strong challenge to the Bears’ advantage, and in the end the Bears lifted the championship trophy.

The key stretch of Brown’s conference schedule this season came at the outset, with wins over Harvard and Princeton, who are now tied for second place in the conference. Each team lost to Brown, drew each other and beat every other conference team they’ve faced. 

But the Tigers and Crimson will still have an opportunity to get their revenge. Unlike previous seasons in which finishing at the top of the Ivy League table earned the Bears an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, this year a postseason conference tournament among the top four teams will determine which school earns that honor. As the number one seed, Brown will host the tournament. But even if Brown were to lose, its high position in the national rankings means the team would still have a strong chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

In the past three seasons, the Bears have twice advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including last season when they were defeated by University of California, Irvine. 


“I think winning the Ivy League regular season and (our) results in our non-conference play have put us in a position to be in the NCAA Tournament,” McNeill wrote. “The Ivy League Tournament is another bonus for us to add to our impressive resume this season.”

“The support we’ve felt from the Brown community is something we are so grateful for, and the opportunity to play on our home turf, in front of our supporters is such a great way to kick off postseason,” goalkeeper Clare Gagne ’24 wrote in a message to The Herald.

Brown will conclude regular season play with a Senior Day match against Dartmouth on Saturday before hosting the conference tournament the following weekend. 

“This program has been so committed to what it takes to be successful and their buy-in has really allowed us to do our job as coaches to make sure that we are developing players and having repetitive success,” McNeill wrote. “I am so grateful to be the leader of this team and there is no greater feeling than seeing the hard work we have all put in over the past year pay off.”

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