After a 3-0 win against Rhode Island in its season opener and a 1-0 victory over Stony Brook Sunday, the women’s soccer team looks poised to make a run for the Ivy League crown. Bruno (2-0-1) will look to improve upon last year’s 7-7-2 record with a combination of fresh faces and veterans.
This season marks a major transition for the team. Eight first-years join the roster, and many have already had opportunities to contribute.
The exposure and involvement of the freshman class so far has been “significant” and “really impressive,” according to defender and team co-captain Maclaine Lehan ’17. “Each player came into preseason with a great attitude. As they continue to develop and adjust to the speed of our games, I think they’ll continue to contribute.”
Against Stony Brook (1-4-1), for example, rookie sensation and Massachusetts native Abby Carchio ’20 netted the game winner to secure the win for Brown and score her first career goal as a Bear.
Most notably, though, Bruno begins the year with a new head coach, Kia McNeill — a former assistant coach at Northeastern and Boston College. This marks the first head coaching change in 39 years, after Brown legend Phil Pincince announced his retirement at the end of last season.
“The transition has been amazing so far with the team,” McNeill said. “I feel lucky to have inherited a team that has wholeheartedly bought into all the change implemented in the past seven months. The seniors this fall and the ones who graduated in May have really helped with the integration of my staff with the team.”
McNeill highlighted that the key to their success has been openness — among both coaches and teammates.
“We have an open line of communication that helps us all stay on the same page in terms of expectations from the coaching staff and the players,” McNeill said. “One thing that really stood out to me when I started working with the team in January was how close this group was, and that team chemistry is really important for us to cultivate going forward.”
In terms of schematic switches, Bruno under McNeill will look to play a high-energy, organized possession-oriented style of play in order to be competitive in the Ivy League. Along with this new system, some players specifically have also switched roles. Veteran Katy Schmidt ’18, a starter at forward last year for Bruno, is now positioned at outside back position. Sarah Cobb ’18, a center back last year, has moved to defensive midfielder this season.
“A theme for this season has been the concept of being ‘uncommon,’” McNeill said. “Nothing great in life comes easy, so if we want to achieve great things as a program we need to work harder than the rest and be ‘uncommon’ in our approach.” The team now warms up in t-shirts with this motto — “UNCOMMON” — emblazoned across the back.
The Bears have embraced this notion from the get-go, even during preseason. According to McNeill, the team came in “physically fit and mentally engaged,” which allowed the new coaching staff to focus on the more technical and tactical aspects of team play.
But the most critical factor for the team’s success will be upperclassman leadership, according to McNeill. Specifically, co-captains Jaclyn Alois ’17, Carly Gould ’17 and Lehan will have extremely important jobs leading the team to victory on the field and strengthening team culture off the field.
At least so far, things are clicking for the Bears. Bruno has capitalized on pre-season efforts with an undefeated start, highlighted by three shutouts from goalie Christine Etzel ’19 over its first three games. Co-captains Gould and Lehan each netted goals for Brown in its win versus Rhode Island as well.
Despite its success, Gould remained critical when evaluating the team’s play so far. “We are looking to attack and defend as a team for the full 90 minutes and minimize breakdowns so that individuals are not forced to make big-time plays,” she said.
Moving forward, the Bears will travel to Easton, Pennsylvania this Sunday to face Lafayette. The team’s first Ivy League matchup will be at Dartmouth on September 25, which they hope will mirror the team’s nonconference success so far this season.
“The Ivy League is extremely competitive, and I like the fact that every game is a battle to the last whistle,” McNeill said. “An obvious goal for this team this year is to win an Ivy League championship, but in order to do that we are just focusing on the details. … We can’t take short-cuts or take the easy way out.”