The Brown women’s soccer team (11-2-2, 7-0-0 Ivy League), regular season champions of the Ivy League, failed to add another trophy to their resume after being upset by Columbia (10-3-3, 3-2-2) 2-1 in the first round of the Ivy League tournament at Stevenson-Pincince Field on Friday night.
The loss is the Bears’ first to an Ivy opponent since 2018. With the defeat, Bruno failed to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which went to Harvard after the Crimson defeated Columbia 3-0 on Sunday in the Ivy Tournament Championship.
Brown will likely still earn an at-large bid during the tournament selection show Monday afternoon, with its RPI still tied for eighth in the country. Whether the University will host its first-round matchup in Providence is unknown.
The Bears were outplayed for long stretches of Friday’s game, failing to record a shot on target in the entirety of the second half and overtime.
“I feel like we could have been a little more aggressive and intentional,” said Head Coach Kia McNeill. “I don’t think we did a good job of, when we won the ball, trying to connect and play up the field.”
“Our team was kind of gassed out by the end of the game, so we were just trying to survive,” she said.
After an even first 40 minutes, forward Brittany Raphino ’23.5 broke the deadlock with a stunning goal from outside the box. She picked up the ball in the midfield, drove forward and decided to shoot, firing a left-footed laser into the left corner.
Brown almost scored a second goal before the half was over. With less than 10 seconds left until the break, a Brown freekick at midfield was sent into the box where it was headed down and then volleyed off the post by defender Naya Cardoza ’26. Two seconds were left on the clock when the ball struck the woodwork.
The miss proved costly. In the second half, Columbia controlled most of the play and in the 54th minute, midfielder Kat Jordan evened the score. On the corner of the box, Jordan drove forward and, with the Brown defense backing off, she fired a shot to the near post past diving Bears goalkeeper Clare Gagne ’24.
After the goal, Columbia continued to create chances while the Brown attack was largely nonexistent.
The Bears played in a different formation than they typically do, sporting a diamond in the midfield with forward Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5 playing in an attacking midfield role rather than her typical position in a strike-partnership with Raphino. After scoring 10 goals last year, Seelenfreund has only found the back of the net once this season.
“We felt like the partnership with (Seelenfreund) and (Raphino), people had seen it for the last three, four years so we wanted to change things up,” McNeill said. “Having (Seelenfreund) more as a recess player underneath would give her some more looks at goal.”
But still, aggressive and physical marking along with a deep back line from the Columbia defense largely neutralized any threat that the Brown attack posed.
In overtime, Bears midfielder Joy Okonye ’27 cleared a Columbia shot off the line to keep the game level. But soon after, the Lions finally broke through. A shot deflected off the post right to forward Shira Cohen, who lifted the ball into the open net.
The defeat put an end to a stunning run of dominance for the Brown women’s soccer team, which had previously gone 26-0-2 in their last 28 games against Ivy opponents.
“The streak (was) going to end at some point,” McNeill said. “It’s good for this team to face some adversity. I’d rather face it now than in the NCAA tournament.”
“I don’t think this loss takes away anything from what this team has achieved thus far, so we’re looking forward to the NCAAs and moving on,” McNeill said. “We’ve lost two games the entire season. Some teams only have two wins the entire season. So I think we have to keep everything in perspective.”
Brown will find out its tournament fate at 4 p.m. Monday.