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Looking back: The year in sports

With the 2008-2009 school year coming to an end, it's time to take a look back at the year of Brown sports. While the year was disappointing on many fronts for Brown athletics, it also had its share of shining moments.

On a rain-soaked Saturday in September, the football team pulled out a 24-22 victory over Harvard, Brown's first win over the Crimson since 1999, to open up the Ivy League season.

A key stop on a Harvard two-point conversion in the closing minutes sealed the victory for the Bears, propelling them to a 6-1 Ivy League record and a share of the Ivy League championship, Brown's second in four years.

"We're in the infant stages of what could be something very special," Head Coach Phil Estes said.

Though inconsistency plagued the women's soccer team in the 2008 season, the high point came early on, when Brown took the collegiate soccer scene by storm at the UConn Classic. On Sept. 12, the Bears scored in overtime to notch a 1-0 win over No. 11 Penn State, before playing to a scoreless tie against No. 1 UCLA on Sept. 14.

For the second straight year, the field hockey team started out 0-6 in Ivy League play, and for the second straight year, the Bears defeated Yale in their final contest of the season.

On Nov. 8, Leslie Springmeyer '12 scored three goals to pace Brown to a 4-1 victory, giving the Bears a 5-12 overall record to finish out the season, a significant improvement from their 1-16 mark in 2007.

"It's great to finish my career with a win. It's definitely a bittersweet feeling, though, having the four years go by so quickly, but it's definitely finishing on a really good note," said Victoria Sacco '09.

Following the departure of Head Coach Craig Robinson and All-Ivy guards Damon Huffman '08 and Mark McAndrew '08, the men's basketball team was unable to repeat the success of its 2007-2008 season, when the Bears went 19-10, with an 11-3 record in the Ivy League. The team did end its season on a high note, though, finishing with back-to-back wins over Harvard and Dartmouth. On March 6, Garrett Leffelman '11 drained a three-pointer as time expired to give Brown a 61-59 win over the Crimson, and the momentum carried into Saturday, when the Bears defeated the Big Green, 69-59, to send off tri-captains Chris Skrelja '09 and Scott Friske '09 on a high note.

"They're wonderful people, and when I'm recruiting somebody I want them to be able to go to those guys, and I want our guys coming in to be like those guys," Head Coach Jesse Agel said. "They worked hard all the time, they cared, they were passionate, they were good teammates and they're what Brown basketball aspires to be."

The men's hockey team struggled for the duration of the regular season, but finally hit its stride in the opening round of the ECAC playoffs. Heading into the best-of-three series as the No. 12 seed, taking on No. 5 Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., the Bears swept the Crimson with back-to-back shutouts, 1-0 and 2-0, behind incredible performances from goalie Mike Clemente '12, who made 86 saves over the two games. Though the team's season came to an end with a pair of losses to top-seeded Yale the following weekend, the Bears established themselves as a team to watch next season.

"It's fun. When you're a little kid, you want to be in a 1-0 or 2-0 playoff game where your team needs you," Clemente said.

The gymnastics team had one of its most successful seasons in recent history, including a second-place finish at the Ivy Classic, and Victoria Zanelli '11 capped off the season with an All-American performance at USAG Nationals. Zanelli posted a score of 9.725 on the beam, putting her in 12th place and giving her All-American status.

Notable quotables

Here are our top three favorite quotes from this year:

3. "I never doubt the heart of these men. I love this team. I love these men. They play with a passion, they play with a sense of urgency and they love each other."  Men's lacrosse Head Coach Lars Tiffany '90, following an 11-10 double-overtime loss to Hofstra.

2. "It sounds bad to say this, but I was like, ‘Yeah, we should win the region because we're that good,'" — Jennifer Grover '10 of the equestrian team.

1. "We won it, we beat Harvard, so we won the whole thing, and we won it outright." — Estes, following the football team's season-ending 41-10 victory over Columbia.

Outlook for the rest of the way

While here at The Herald we're wrapping up our semester of production, the year is not yet over for Brown's sports teams, and there's still plenty to watch for.

With a 11-2 record, and a 3-1 mark in the Ivy League, the men's lacrosse team's Ivy League championship hopes are still alive, and with a current No. 13 national ranking in the USILA Coaches Poll, Brown could make for a serious contender for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Saturday at 1 p.m., at Stevenson Field, the Bears will take on No. 2 Cornell (9-2, 5-0 Ivy) with their Ivy League championship hopes on the line, and next Saturday, they will close out their regular season at No. 5 Princeton (10-2, 3-1).

With its Ivy League record at 12-4 heading into the final weekend of play, the baseball team is still in the running for a spot in the Ivy League championship series. Brown will take on Yale in a four-game series this weekend, but even if they sweep the series, the Bears will still need some help from Harvard, who will face Rolfe Division leader Dartmouth (20-11, 14-2) in a four-game series this weekend. The Bears will travel to New Haven, Conn. for a doubleheader on Saturday, before returning home for a doubleheader at Murray Stadium on Sunday, beginning at noon.

Both crew teams have a lot left to race for. The men will shoot to defend their Ivy League title at Eastern Sprints on May 10 before heading back on June 4 to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, where they finished fifth last year.

The two-time defending national champion women will host Columbia and Cornell on Saturday at 8 a.m. on the Seekonk River. The women will look to retain their status as the most successful program in the history of women's crew, having won six of the past 10 championships and finishing in the top three at every NCAA Championship, at this year's NCAAs from May 29 to 31.



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