The Brown women’s soccer team’s postseason struggles continued Friday with a 2-1 loss to Mississippi State University in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The loss ended the Bears’ season, putting a wrap on the collegiate careers of student-athletes from one of the most dominant classes in program history.
The group, which includes forwards Brittany Raphino ’23.5, Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5 and midfielder Sheyenne Allen ’23.5, arrived at Brown in 2019, when they helped the Bears win the Ivy League title and make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994. The class, which was granted an extra year of eligibility this season due to the pandemic-induced cancellation of the 2020 season, never failed to win the Ivy League title, but also never advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In 2019, the Bears fell 2-0 to No. 1 seed Florida State University in the round of 32; in 2021, St. John’s University defeated Brown 1-0 in overtime in a first-round game at Stevenson-Pincince Field; in 2022, Bruno lost in penalty kicks in the round of 32 to University of California, Irvine.
This season, Brown earned a No. 3 seed in the tournament, putting the team in a strong position to advance. But after cruising through the first round with a 3-0 win vs. Quinnipiac University, a couple of critical moments in a close game once again sent the Bears home in their second-round matchup.
After a scoreless first half of Friday’s game, Brown took the lead in the 61st minute with a goal from defender Naya Cardoza ’26 off of a corner kick from Allen. Her ball was flicked onto the back post where midfielder Layla Shell ’25.5, with an overhead kick, sent the ball back to the near post where a charging Cardoza headed it in.
But the Bears’ jubilation didn’t last long. Just nine minutes later, the Bulldogs equalized with a goal from Kennedy White, who snuck behind the Brown backline. After another seven minutes, things got worse for Bruno: Off of a Bulldogs corner, a weak header from White floated toward the Brown goalline, where a spinning Taylor James volleyed it from point-blank range into the back of the net.
Mississippi State held on to the 2-1 advantage but lost to Stanford University 1-0 in the round of 16 on Sunday.
The Bears and Head Coach Kia McNeill will now have to rebuild a Brown attack without Raphino, who supplied over one-third of Brown’s goals this season.
An almost-certain inductee into the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame, Raphino recorded a career-high 13 goals — five of which were game-winning — and seven assists this year, becoming the only player ever to win three straight Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year awards.
Raphino will have the option to continue playing college soccer for one more season as a graduate student, but it would have to be at another university, as Ivy League rules do not allow graduate students to participate in athletics.
While Brown will lose its top marksman and other core pieces from its Ivy dynasty, its conference rivals are likely to improve. Three of Harvard’s top four scorers are set to return, while Princeton’s Pietra Tordin, who scored 12 goals this year, is only a sophomore.
For now, though, the Bears will focus on saying goodbye to a class that has presided over one of the most dominant periods in the recent history of Brown athletics: a 51-11-8 overall record, a 28-game unbeaten streak in conference play and four Ivy League titles.