Director of Athletics Jack Hayes waited just 10 seconds after finding out who Brown would play for the first round of the NCAA tournament before approaching women’s soccer Head Coach Kia McNeill for a chat.
The team and a room of supporters gathered on the second floor of the Pizzitola Center for a live streamed watch party of first round bracket announcements Monday. As other teams appeared and disappeared from the screen, the room stayed silent, patiently waiting to see how Bruno made out. After what seemed like a lifetime, Brown’s name appeared with an asterisk denoting home field.
The room erupted in cheers that only intensified when Brown’s opponent appeared underneath them. Monmouth. Fists punctured the air, high-fives reverberated across the room and screams trailed off into sighs of relief.
“It’s totally unpredictable, and you don’t know where you’re going or who you’re going to play against,” said Junior Captain Sydney Cummings ’21. She said the team was glad to see Monmouth’s “name on the screen and (not) a name like UCLA right underneath it. And because we’re hosting. We weren’t ready to give up playing on Stevenson-Pincince field.”
The star-studded watch party included Dean of the College Rashid Zia ’01 and Dean of Admission Logan Powell. “The support does not go unnoticed,” said forward/midfielder Celia Story ’19.5. “So many of my professors have come up to me during class or emailed me saying, ‘Congratulations, we’re rooting for you.’ It means a lot, especially at Brown where athletics aren’t always supported as much as they could be. To know that the administration is really behind us means so much to us.”
After the cheers died down, Hayes wasted no time walking over to McNeill. “I have to look at (Monmouth’s) non-conference” performance to develop a game plan, McNeill told Hayes.
Qualifying for the NCAA tournament marks a successful regular season and opens the door for more achievements. But beforehand, there is one thing that must be done.
“I wanted to let you know,” McNeill said as she started Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” hand flip, “that (Hayes) told me today we can all get sized for our rings!” The whole team hollered and held up their hands in unison for the regalia that would denote their conference championship.
“This is great for the team because they’ve earned it,” Hayes said. “They’ve played great from day one. The whole year was competitive, consistent and (had) contributions from a number of people. McNeill has done a great job leading all four classes. It was great to see our name come up and to get a home game.”
Story attributes part of Bruno’s success to its international trip to France over the summer where they saw the U.S. Women’s National Team compete for and win a World Cup.
“Having experienced (the World Cup),” Story said, “just in terms of team bonding and seeing a dream come true, is so important and so relevant (to) what we’re doing ... We were able to spend time together and see (the) empowered, incredible women of the USWNT live out their dream, (and it) brought us together and helped us catapult the start of our season. It was vital.”
“Congratulations to you guys,” McNeill said to the room about her team. “It’s unbelievable to go 6-0-1 in the Ivy League. This has been the strongest the (League) has ever been from top to bottom. There’s so much parity in the League. All of you guys can see that this year, so tremendous job during the conference season.”
Soon after, another squad paid the team a surprise visit, announcing their presence with a round of applause from the back of the room. The men’s basketball players, who had just finished practice downstairs, came to pay honor to their fellow athletes.
“We’re proud of you. We’ll be rooting for you on Saturday,” said men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Martin ’04.
Brown is the only team in the conference to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. “We’re just excited to be able to represent the Ivy League,” McNeill said. “We’re excited to do the best we can (this) postseason.”
Brown will take on Monmouth this Saturday, “and hopefully we’ll put together some flashy goals for people to be able to watch,” McNeill added.