Like the previous three seasons, the No. 14 Brown women’s soccer team (11-1-2, 7-0 Ivy) went undefeated in conference play on its way to winning this year’s Ivy League title. But unlike past years, the Bears’ conference championship doesn’t officially guarantee them a bid in the NCAA tournament.
This weekend, for the first time, the Ivy League is holding a postseason tournament between the regular season’s top four teams, with the winner earning the conference’s lone automatic bid to the national tournament. Given Brown’s high position in the national rankings, the team is likely to earn an at-large bid even if it doesn’t win the tournament. But, the team’s seeding, home-field advantage and a 28-game unbeaten streak against Ivy opponents stretching back to 2018 are still at stake.
The top-seeded Bears will host the tournament at Stevenson-Pincince Field and match up in the first round at 5 p.m. on Friday against Columbia (9-3-3, 3-2-2 Ivy). If they win, the team will face the winner of Harvard (10-3-2, 5-1-1 Ivy) v. Princeton (9-4-3, 4-2-1) — who will play each other earlier Friday afternoon — in a championship match on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Crimson and Tigers have been the closest challengers to Bruno in recent seasons, but the Lions, whose defense ranks fourth in the nation with only 0.4 goals allowed per game, present a steep challenge for the Bears in the first round.
The Lions recorded impressive 1-0 wins this season against Princeton and the Providence College team which handed Brown its lone loss of the season. In their game earlier this fall, Brown defeated Columbia 1-0 thanks to a goal scored by forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5 just 35 seconds into the match. But after Raphino’s opener, Columbia played Brown tight, outshooting the Bears 6-4 in the second half.
Columbia will again have its eye on Raphino, who ranks second in the Ivy League with 11 goals so far this season. Columbia’s Kat Jordan has seven goals, ranking third in the conference.
Winning the tournament would likely leave Brown in a strong position to earn a high seed in the 64-team NCAA tournament, where the Bears have had limited success in recent years despite their conference dominance. Brown has so far failed to advance beyond the second round of the national tournament, losing to Florida State University in the second round in 2019, Saint John’s University in the first round in 2021 and the University of California, Irvine in the second round in 2022.
But the Bears are currently ranked No. 5 in the nation in RPI, a mathematical index the NCAA uses that takes teams’ strength of schedule into account. This ranking means Brown could earn a higher seed in the tournament than it has in previous years, theoretically making its path to advance in the tournament easier.
“Having the opportunity to host the tournament in its inaugural year is an incredible feeling,” goalkeeper Clare Gagne ’24 wrote in a message to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “We are a team that shows up big for home games, and I hope hosting the tournament gives us the chance to keep doing that.”
“Being able to play on our home turf, have a comfortable pregame and play in front of our friends and fans, we’ll be unstoppable,” wrote Sheyenne Allen ’23.5. “As history shows, we don’t like to lose at home, and we’re gonna play ’til the last whistle to keep that tradition.”