After a disappointing, season-opening 4-1 loss to American, the women’s field hockey team bounced back with a thrilling 2-1 win over Appalachian State for the first victory of what looks to be a promising season.
Even in the loss, Head Coach Jill Reeve saw a lot of promise in what took place during the opening weekend, she said.
“I was impressed with our team’s poise and performance in our first match versus American,” Reeve said. “We were able to execute the gameplan and play at a very high level for the bulk of the game. They created numerous scoring opportunities and defended well. If we continue to play like that, we will have an outstanding season.”
Bruno (1-1) secured its first winning season since 2006 only 13 games into last season but were unable to make any noise in the Ivy League. The Bears’ lone conference win was an overtime thriller against Harvard — which finished fourth in the conference standings — but early losses to Columbia and Dartmouth quickly doomed any Ivy dreams. This year, hopes are high that the Bears will improve on a bittersweet 2014 campaign.
“It’s time for us to make our mark,” Reeve said. “I’m not sure how that will be defined in wins and losses, but we have been developing and improving over several years, and I can sense that we are on the brink of good things for this Brown Bear team.”
“We’ve been building over the last few years and this is a culmination of all of that,” said Anna Masini ’16. “This is the first year that all of our players were recruited by (Reeve), so we have high expectations. We want to prove that we can be at the top of the Ivy League and surprise some people.”
This year, with a solid core of returning players that includes stalwart back Katarina Angus ’17 and co-captains Masini and Alexis Miller ’16, Brown hopes to improve upon last season’s conference woes. Miller and Angus have scored two of Bruno’s three goals this season, while Masini registered an assist on Angus’ game-winner against Appalachian State.
“Our current seniors are an amazing group of characters,” Reeve said. “Their leadership is outstanding. I am impressed with the way they have gotten the team connected and engaged with what we’re focused on accomplishing this season. They are all highly influential because of how hard they work and how much they care about the team.”
A key loss for the Bears is all-time leading goalscorer Meghan O’Donnell ’15, who scored several important goals last year during a season in which five of Bruno’s wins were decided by a single goal. Another record-holder, goaltender Shannon McSweeney ’15 — who holds the mark for most career saves — graduated last year, leaving a gaping hole in the back of a Brown defense that only allowed 2.17 goals per game last year.
“It’s always interesting trying to figure out how you are going reshape the team when you’re faced with losing impact players like Shannon and Meghan,” Reeve said. “They’re not replaceable. Therefore we must reinvent ourselves each year. That’s a fun challenge.”
“We’re trying to change our forward movement as a whole,” Miller said. “Meghan was phenomenal, but a lot of her goals came on fast breaks where she used her speed to her advantage. We’re trying to switch the gameplan and make it more of a team effort to score goals, using different passing patterns and a more developed attack.”
The leading candidates to replace the members of the 2015 class, which also featured back Haley Alvarez ’15, forward Liza Green ’15 and consistent starter Clayton Christus ’15, are first-years. Maddie Ayles ’19, Rachel Lanouette ’19 and Ellie Seid ’19 all started in the first two games for the Bears, while classmate Katie Hammaker ’19 started in goal. Emma Caviness ’19 and Carly Kabelac ’19 round out a class that looks to be hugely important in the upcoming season.
“The talent level in the freshman class is exceptional,” Reeve said. “They also possess a natural love for the game and a team-first mentality, which makes our team that much stronger. They have already outperformed my expectations.”
“The freshman class has an intense spark and a hardworking, dogged work ethic,” Miller said. “They can be our secret weapons because they don’t really have reputations around the league yet and can help us surprise people.”
A rotating crew of sophomores and juniors featured in at least one of the two opening games, with Katherine Kallergis ’18 — who scored arguably the Bears’ most exciting goal of last season, the game-winner against crosstown rival Providence — getting on the scoresheet against Appalachian State.
Even with O’Donnell in the fray last year, goal scoring was an issue for the Bears in the Ivy League, as the team only mustered eight goals in conference play. The good news for Brown is that four of its five leading scorers, excluding O’Donnell, return this year with hope for continued improvement from its sophomore and first-year contributors.
“We need to be able to finish,” said Masini. “Last year we struggled with scoring a little bit, but we have freshmen that have come in and fit in with the team seamlessly. They are good executors and goal scorers and should help us out a lot this year.”
The challenge in conference play — as it has been for the past decade — will be unseating defending champion Princeton (0-2), which graduated six seniors, including its two leading scorers.
The Bears play their home opener Saturday against Bryant (1-4) before taking on UMass Lowell (4-0) Sunday.