During the NCAA tournament selection Monday afternoon, the women’s soccer team (11-2-2, 7-0 Ivy) earned a No. 3 seed in their region of the NCAA tournament bracket, its highest position in decades. They will host a first-round game against Quinnipiac University on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Should Brown defeat Quinnipiac, it will play the winner of Mississippi State University vs. Providence College — which dealt the Bears their lone regular season loss this season — in a game at Stanford University, the No. 2 seed in Brown’s region.
“This is where we wanted to be as a team with an NCAA bid at the end of the season," Head Coach Kia McNeill said in a press release from Brown Athletics. "I think getting a three seed shows the respect the committee has for our team and the impressive season we have had, and we're excited to keep this journey going."
The announcement comes on the heels of the team’s Friday loss in the first round of the Ivy tournament to Columbia. The high seeding placement demonstrates the selection committee’s recognition of the Bears’ regular season dominance, which included going undefeated in Ivy League play and posting a 4-1-2 record in non-conference play.
“Coming into the NCAA Selection Show, we were pretty confident that we would be an At-Large bid to the tournament …That being said, it never gets old hearing your team's name called out as one of the remaining 64 schools still playing, and as the Ivy League School with the highest seed,” wrote goalie Clare Gagne ’24 in a message to The Herald.
“I can't understate the work we've done to get us to this point and I'm so proud of every single person on this team for the dedication and sacrifice it's taken to get us where we are,” Gagne added.
The selections also showed the committee’s belief in the quality of the Ivy League conference, with all four teams that made the Ivy tournament —Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Brown — not just making the NCAA tournament, but also earning the right to host their first-round matchup.
“It's pretty incredible that the Ivy League has four teams in the tournament,” Gagne wrote. “To have the Ivy League recognized with four bids to the tournament is truly an incredible feeling and something I'm personally very grateful to be a part of.”
The Bears are led by star forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5, who was recently announced as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. In October, she moved into sole possession of second place on the Bears’ all-time points leaderboard. McNeill was also named Ivy League Coach of the Year this season.
In Quinnipiac, Brown will face an opponent with an explosive offense that ranks 12th in the nation with 2.63 goals per game. The Bobcats dominated the MAAC conference but encountered more difficulty in non-conference games against stronger opponents. Against teams that Brown also faced this season, Quinnipiac went 0-3, losing 3-0 to Providence, 1-0 to Dartmouth and 4-2 to Princeton.
This is perhaps the Bears’ best chance in program history to advance far into the national tournament. Brown has never made the semifinals of the NCAA tournament and hasn’t made the quarterfinals since 1984. During their current stretch of four consecutive Ivy League titles, Bruno has failed to advance beyond the second round of the tournament.
“Looking forward (to) this weekend and the start of the tournament, it's going to be about taking one game at a time. As a team, we put a lot of emphasis on doing the little things right, and that starts with our effort and intent this week throughout training,” Gagne wrote.
“This is the most exciting time of year because every game is win or go home, and for quite a few of us, any game could be our last with Brown Women's Soccer,” Gagne added. “I think that's something every person on this team really embraces because we know how special this group is and we know what we are fighting for every moment of this tournament.”
The Bears’ first-round matchup will be played at Stevenson-Pincince Field, and available to stream on ESPN+.
Additional reporting by Linus Lawrence