Last season, forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5 scored 10 goals — tied for most on the Brown roster — on her way to being named to the Ivy League First Team. But this year, ahead of the women’s soccer team’s matchup against Quinnipiac Saturday, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, she had only scored once.
Against the Bobcats, the 2022 version of Seelenfreund returned. At the heart of nearly every Brown attack, Seelenfreund recorded a staggering 10 shots, including a goal in the 15th minute of what became a 3-0 Brown (12-2-2, 7-0-0 Ivy) victory over Quinnipiac (13-4-1, 9-0-1 MAAC).
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work,” Seelenfreund said. “The ball might not be bouncing my way a few times and I’m getting a little unlucky, but I have not put my head down. It felt really good to put one away early and keep the result going.”
Seelenfreund’s performance was part of a dominant showing from the Bears a week after they lost in the first round of the Ivy League tournament to Columbia, breaking a 28-game unbeaten streak against conference opponents. Quinnipiac, which entered the game 12th in the nation in goals per game, failed to record even a shot against the Brown defense until the final seconds of the game, while the Brown attack had 24 attempts, nine of which were on target.
“The team played tremendous from start to finish,” Head Coach Kia McNeill said.
“I’m just so grateful to play behind a fantastic back line,” goalkeeper Clare Gagne ’24 said. “That one shot on goal really speaks for itself. I didn’t have to do much this game.”
On Friday, Brown — the No. 3 seed in its quadrant of the bracket — will face the sixth-seeded Mississippi State (11-5-5, 5-3-2 SEC) at Stanford University. The Bulldogs defeated Providence College 1-0 Saturday in overtime to advance to the next round.
After a balanced first 15 minutes of play, Seelenfreund capitalized on Quinnipiac’s indecisive defense to net her opener. Defender Jessica Hinton ’24 floated a ball into the box, where it was flicked on by forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5 and landed near Seelenfreund. Her marker let the ball bounce multiple times, hoping the Quinnipiac goalie Sofia Lospinoso would come to claim it, but she was too late to arrive, allowing Seelenfreund to lunge with her right foot and poke it into the back of the net.
The Bears doubled their lead 15 minutes later, again taking advantage of a Quinnipiac mistake. A corner kick from defender Sheyenne Allen ’23.5 was flicked on at the near post by a Quinnipiac player and landed right at the foot of unmarked midfielder Layla Shell ’25.5 at the back post. Shell’s shot deflected off an opposing defender and flew past the inside of the post.
“We knew that Quinnipiac was susceptible on set pieces and service in general so we really tried to focus on that in training,” McNeill said.
While the Brown attack went completely quiet in the latter half of the loss to Columbia, the Bears continued to dominate Quinnipiac for the second half, racking up 15 shots. But it took until the final minute of the game for the Bears to notch their third goal. It came off the foot of Raphino after a Quinnipiac goal kick was headed back by midfielder Lucinda Anderson ’24, which gave Raphino a breakaway. Raphino calmly slotted the ball past an off-balance Lospinoso to record her 13th goal of the season and her 10th in the last eight games.
The Bears were aided by tactical adjustments McNeill made from the game against Columbia, which included using substitutes for longer periods and returning Seelenfreund to a forward role instead of the attacking midfield position she played against the Lions.
“Last week, we didn’t really sub a ton in the game and I think sometimes some people’s legs got heavy towards the end of the game,” McNeill said. “So today it was nice to be able to go to our bench and give a jolt of energy from our bench and utilize the depth we have on this team.”
Brown will likely face a tougher test against Mississippi State, which ended the regular season ranked 18th in the nation. Brown features the stronger attack in the matchup, averaging 2.06 goals per game to the Bulldogs’ 1.14, but both teams allow less than 0.7 goals a game.
Mississippi State finished third in the SEC, a conference with seven teams in the second round of the NCAA tournament. But the first round was also a success for the Ivy League, with all four teams that made the tournament advancing to the next round.
Brown will look to take its tournament success a step further than last year, when it lost to UC Irvine in penalty kicks in the second round.
“We’re excited to be going back to the second round of the tournament. I feel like we have some unfinished business from last year,” McNeill said. “I definitely feel our team can make a good run.”