Sports

Why watch?

Ten teams prepare to launch their 2014 season, and there’s a reason to watch each one of them

By and
Sports Editors
Friday, September 5, 2014

Let’s face it: No Brown team will ever boast tens of thousands of screaming fans like athletes in Ann Arbor or Happy Valley see at their sporting events. But as we kick off the new semester, each of Bruno’s fall sports teams gets ready to take the field once again. Though they may not get the recognition of their state school counterparts, all the teams will be exciting to watch in their own way. Here are the main reasons to pay attention.

 

Men’s soccer

No team has promoted its games in recent years more heavily than the men’s soccer team. This season is no different, as sidewalk chalk and Facebook events already alert students to the squad’s season opener Friday night against Siena College. Recent success has backed up the aggressive advertising, and the return of many star players makes this a year to tune in to the pitch.

If history is any indication, Bruno should excel in two of fans’ favorite parts of soccer: scoring and winning. Last year’s leading scorer Tariq Akeel ’16 returns for his junior season alongside Ben Maurey ’15.5, the Bears’ leading scorer from 2012 who missed 2013 with an injury. When you add the fact that five of the six players with the highest shooting percentages from 2013 will be in uniform Friday night, it figures to be an explosive offensive year for Bruno. As for the victories, Head Coach Patrick Laughlin ensures the squad is always playing its best in front of the home crowd, having lost just five games on College Hill in his first three seasons at the helm.

A 2011 Ivy League title and consecutive trips to the Sweet Sixteen of the National Soccer Tournament in 2011 and 2012 distinguish men’s soccer as one of Brown’s strongest sports. Another title or national tournament run could be on the horizon.

 

Women’s rugby

The women’s rugby team is accustomed to success. As a club team, it has won the Ivy League championship six years in a row. From 2008 to 2012, it reached the national semifinals four of five times. When Bruno travels to Harvard on Sept. 13 for the first varsity matchup in Ivy League history, it will hope to build on past success on a brand-new stage: Seniors Kathryn Graves ’15, A. Sydney Peak ’15, Elena Suglia ’15, Zoe Thompson ’15 and Jamelle Watson-Daniels ’15 will lead Brown’s newest varsity sport in its first official season. Though the varsity designation is just months old, this team may have the best chance of any of Bruno’s fall squads to become a national champion.

 

Football

Why watch a team that graduated 18 of its 22 starters and is picked to finish sixth in the Ivy League this season? Two words: Johnny Football. While it is unlikely the real Johnny Manziel will see the field for the Bears this season, Head Coach Phil Estes compared his new starting quarterback, Marcus Fuller ’15, to Texas A&M’s dual-threat Heisman Trophy winner. If Fuller can live up to his coach’s comparison and utilize weapons like All-Ivy speedster Alexander Jette ’17, he could give Brown Stadium some offensive fireworks in his first season as a starter.

Speed and elusiveness on the offensive side of the ball complement what is sure to be an old-fashioned, hard-hitting Bruno defense. Two of the league’s best linebackers — Dan Giovacchini ’15 and Xavier Russo ’15 — will anchor the defensive unit.

Estes has a knack for defying the preseason rankings, and the football team has stockpiled a lot of young stars. But Estes will need his young stars to mature quickly because defending Ivy champion Harvard comes to College Hill for a marquee night game Sept. 27.

 

Women’s soccer

Coming off a 10-win season and one of its best conference performances in recent history, Bruno will hope to fill the void left by eight graduating seniors, including two All-Ivy selections in Mika Siegelman ’14 and goalie Mary Catherine Barrett ’14. If anyone can take a new cast of characters to the next level, it is Head Coach Phil Pincince, who is entering his 38th year at the helm as the 13th-winningest coach in NCAA Division I history. Captain Chloe Cross ’15 will head the charge, having led Bruno in scoring each of the past two seasons and earning All-Ivy honors herself. Annie Gillen ’15, another All-Ivy selection, will aim to set up Cross from the backfield. Charlotte Beach ’16 also looks to play an integral role in this year’s campaign as a midfielder.

 

Volleyball

It was only two seasons ago that the volleyball team lost 11 Ivy games and ended in the conference cellar. But a transformation in the last two years has the squad coming off its first winning Ivy season since 2008 and primed for more success.

This season should be a particularly good one for hitters, as the Bears have the personnel and offensive scheme to launch some missiles over the net. Maddie Lord ’15, last season’s team leader in kills, returns to haunt back rows across the conference with her authoritative spike. Some new faces will look to get in on the action, including Casey Tierney ’18, whom Head Coach Diane Short has described as “just terminating the ball” when she hits. Couple their talent with the 6-2 rotation Bruno employs — a strategy usually used by teams with powerful hitters — and fans can expect some high-velocity volleyballs in 2014.

The return of the team leader in kills, assists and digs has the team poised to compete in the Ancient Eight. Four-time defending Ivy champion Yale will be tough to dethrone, so its showdown with Bruno in the Pizzitola Center Sept. 26 is worth watching.

 

Field hockey

The field hockey team may not have had the most successful past few years; its last winning season came in 2006, and Bruno has won just two Ivy League games in the past three years. Despite the team’s struggles, though, it is worth seeing a game just to watch Meghan O’Donnell ’15 — one of the best players in Brown history. She led the team in goals and points last season and will look to break the team’s all-time goals record this time around. She currently sits in third place with twenty-nine. Goalkeeper Shannon McSweeney ’15 also provided a bright spot for Bruno last season, leading the Ivy League with 172 saves and earning an All-Ivy honorable mention.

 

Men’s water polo

Few Brown teams would be disappointed with finishing 23-13 with an 8-5 conference record. But for the men’s water polo team, the goal is to return to its dominant ways of 2012, when it posted 29 wins and went undefeated in conference play. Five players remain from that team, including seniors Henry Fox ’15, Andrew Brown ’15 and Nick Deaver ’15. Fox led the team with 85 goals last season, finished in the top five on the team in blocks, steals and assists and was named CWPA Northern Division First Team. An Oct. 11 home doubleheader against Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be circled on Bruno’s calendar. With this weekend the second in a row that Brown will face its Cambridge counterparts, the matchups may go a long way in determining the conference champion.

 

Tennis

Unlike some of Bruno’s other fall teams, both tennis teams return to action having lost only a few of their most talented performers. The men’s team returns two of its top singles players in Justin To ’15 and Gregory Garcia ’17. The women’s team also returns its young top two — an all-Ivy doubles pairing — in Dayna Lord ’17 and Hannah Camhi ’16, a former Herald staff writer. Lord was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year for her performance last season. If both teams are able to stay healthy, some of the conference’s top talent might help them bounce back from recent Ivy League struggles. Both teams will host the Brown Invitational on College Hill — the men from September 13 to 15 and the women from September 19 to 21.

 

 

Cross country

Don’t be deterred by consecutive down years by the men’s cross country team. While the team will run competitively only once in the state of Rhode Island — an Oct. 17 run in Warwick — it is worth tracking a few of the squad’s rising stars.

Mark McGurrin ’15, Ben Halpin ’15 and Martin Martinez ’17 consistently led Bruno last season, and all three return to try to push the Bears out of the bottom of the conference standings.

Jordan Mann ’15 may be the team’s most exciting runner. After an impressive finish to his track season last spring, Mann spent the summer training at altitude in Boulder, Colorado, an endurance sport Mecca. He has looked impressive in his return to campus and will be a runner to track as the season progresses.

 

Men’s golf

The class of 2014’s graduation put a dent in the men’s golf team, with senior leaders Nelson Hargrove ’14 and Peter Callas ’14 ending their careers. Justin Miller ’15 will step into the captain role as the team’s lone senior and best returning performer. The 2014 season will be one of rebuilding, hinging largely on the performance of underclassmen.

Jack Wilson ’16 is the team’s only junior, so two sophomores and two first-years will be counted on to fill out the lineup. Expect some growing pains from the young talent, but scouting the new prospects is an exciting part of college sports. If Chad Carlson ’17 and Connor Lynch ’17 can build on their rookie campaigns and newcomers Kevin Li ’18 and Ben Warner ’18 adapt to the collegiate game, the squad has the foundation for success in years to come.