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Women’s soccer defeats No. 15 Princeton 2-1

Bears parry latest challenge to four-year Ivy unbeaten streak

<p>Saturday's victory over Princeton marked the Bears’ 23rd straight Ivy League game without a loss, a streak that stretches back to 2018.</p>

Saturday's victory over Princeton marked the Bears’ 23rd straight Ivy League game without a loss, a streak that stretches back to 2018.

With a 2-1 victory over nationally ranked Princeton (6-2-2, 1-1 Ivy League) on Saturday at Stevenson-Pincince Field, the Brown women’s soccer team (6-1-2, 2-0) proved it is still the juggernaut of the Ivy League.

It has become a pattern over Brown’s four-season unbeaten run in conference play: An up-and-coming Ivy rival looks to knock the Bears off, only to be foiled by forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5 — who scored both goals on Saturday — and the rest of Head Coach Kia McNeill’s team.

This time, it was Princeton, ranked 15th nationally by TopDrawer Soccer and led by star attacker Pietra Tordin, that made an attempt against Bruno. A sophomore forward, Tordin earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors last season and entered the match against Brown fourth in the country in goals per game.

But none of that mattered on Saturday against Brown, who is unranked nationally. The Brown defense, led by center back Jessica Hinton ’24, largely contained the Princeton attack, while a prolific three-minute stretch for Raphino at the beginning of the second half supplied all the offense Brown needed.

The first half of the game was largely a defensive stalemate, with the Tigers recording four shots to the Bears’ two. “We got outplayed in the first half,” McNeill said. “I thought they were more aggressive than we were.”

Princeton created their best opportunity of the first half in the 27th minute. Crisp build-up play brought the ball to midfielder Marissa Hart on the left corner of the penalty box. She chipped a precise pass to the six-yard box for an onrushing Lily Bryant, who made only weak contact and popped the ball up for Brown goalkeeper Clare Gagne ’24 to make a save. 

Shortly afterward, Raphino received a chance, getting in behind the Tigers’ backline for a clear opportunity against Princeton goalie Tyler McCamey. Slightly off-balance, she sent a weak shot comfortably wide.

But in the second half, Raphino didn’t make the same mistake. 

Less than three minutes into the second half, midfielder Evelyn Calhoon ’24 won back the ball with a strong tackle in the midfield. She played a sharp give-and-go with midfielder Joy Okonye ’27 and looped a first-time ball over the top of the defense for Raphino, who had made a run.

Raphino, allowing the ball to settle, shifted her weight to get off a shot with the inside of her right foot. McCamey got a hand to it, but the ball continued skipping, with Raphino waiting to celebrate until it nestled in the side netting.

“When she got a touch on the ball, I was standing, not sure if it was going in, but I was really glad that it got that last bend. The rain definitely helped that,” Raphino said.

“That first goal was just a flow state,” Calhoon said. “I hit a one two with (Okonye) in the midfield. And then, Brittany's lurking always on their back player, so I just pop the ball over the top, and she takes care of business.”

Less than three minutes later, Raphino grabbed her second. Again, it was Calhoon and Okonye combining in the midfield, with Okonye this time playing a ball through the defense for Raphino to rush onto. Raphino approached the ball on the right side of the box and, with a difficult angle, ripped a one-time shot into the top far corner. 

To begin the half, Brown switched to a two-striker formation. “A formation change in the second half allowed us to get more pressure on their backs, be in a little bit more natural positions in order to counter,” McNeill said. “Our team adjusted to the formation change well.”

Princeton drew within one in the 73rd minute when Hinton fell in a challenge with Princeton forward Lexi Hiltunen, giving Hiltunen a gap to receive a through ball in-behind. Now one-on-one against Gagne, with center back Naya Cardoza ’26 rushing back, Hiltunen dragged a shot that may have been going wide but it hit Cardoza, which directed it into the open net.

It ended a scoreless streak for the Brown defense that had lasted over 300 minutes over multiple games. But afterward, the Princeton attack saw few chances and the Bears successfully wound down the clock with their lead preserved.

It marked the Bears’ 23rd straight Ivy League game without a loss, a streak that stretches back to 2018.

“It’s a surreal experience just being a senior and reflecting on the past three years,” Calhoon said. “I've only won on this team and so, in some ways, it feels really right. But I know that we don't take it for granted. We work our asses off every single day and it shows out here on the pitch.”

Having already defeated perennial contender Harvard (6-3-1, 1-1) 2-0 in the Ivy opener last weekend, the Bears have now passed the two toughest tests of their conference schedule. But the entire conference has shown its strength in the first part of the season with teams like Columbia (7-2-1, 1-1) and Dartmouth (7-0-3, 2-0) sporting nearly spotless records. 

Additionally, this is the first year in which the Ivy League will use a four-team elimination tournament after the regular season to determine the conference champion and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. That means that the wins against Harvard and Princeton put Brown in a strong position to earn the number one seed and the right to host the conference tournament, but the Bears may very well have to knock off the Crimson or the Tigers once more to earn its fourth-straight Ivy League title.

Brown will visit Yale (5-2-3, 0-1-1) on Wednesday before returning home for a game against the University of Pennsylvania (5-4-2, 0-1-1) next Saturday.

“Every Ivy game is a battle. On paper, Harvard and Princeton are probably two of the best teams, but Yale's no sleeper,” McNeill said. “We're just trying to take everything one game at a time.”


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