From conference championships to barrier-breaking moments to improbable win streaks, 2023 was a year packed with entertainment and excitement for fans of Brown sports. In honor of the accomplishments from Bruno’s teams, players and coaching staffs, The Herald looks back on 10 of Brown athletics’ biggest moments to remember from the past year.
February: Women’s tennis crowned ECAC champions
Mowing down their opponents in dominant fashion, women’s tennis pulled off an upset in February by taking home the ECAC Championship in Hanover, New Hampshire as the No. 7 seed. On their path to the title, they defeated No. 2 Penn, No. 6 Columbia and No. 1 Princeton.
The team went on to finish with an 18-7 record, including going 6-1 against Ivy opponents, marking the program’s third-best season to date.
March: Men’s basketball packs the Pizz with playoff berth at stake
On Mar. 4, a crowd of 2,003 fans filled the Pizzitola Sports Center to watch the Bears face off against the Yale Bulldogs with a potential spot in the Ivy tournament on the line, marking the program’s first sell-out since 2012. Though they ultimately fell 84-75, Bruno put up a valiant fight, going on multiple electric runs in the first half.
The senior night game acted as a send-off for departing players Paxson Wojcik ’23 and Perry Cowan ’23. The season also saw another key milestone, as Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 became the winningest coach in Bears men’s basketball history with his 134th victory Feb. 11 against Cornell.
March: Olivia Pichardo ’26 debuts as first woman in Division I baseball
On Mar. 17, Brown hosted a moment of intercollegiate history: With a pinch-hit at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning against Bryant University, Olivia Pichardo ’26 officially became the first woman to ever play for an NCAA Division I baseball team. Swinging on the first pitch, she hit a sharp groundout to first base.
Pichardo, a New Yorker whose resume includes the USA Baseball Women’s National Team, was announced in November 2022 to have made the Bears’ roster as a walk-on.
February-April: Gymnastics wins Ivy title, Julia Bedell ’25 wins gold at championships
With broken records, gold medals and an Ivy League title, the gymnastics team put together a stellar set of accomplishments in 2023. Amidst an early-season home-meet win streak, Julia Bedell ’25 introduced a new tumbling pass in her floor routine, notching a score of 9.925, which tied the program record. That routine eventually earned her gold at the end-of-season USA Gymnastics’ Women’s Collegiate National Championships. Three other gymnasts earned First-Team USAG All-American honors and competed at the meet’s individual finals.
The Bears also walked out of their spring season with an Ivy title, collecting first place in the Ivy Classic. That meet, the team scored a 195.200, the second-highest team score in program history.
April: Women’s rugby rises to national championship
Capping off a stellar season in which they went 18-7-1, the women’s rugby team swept the Collegiate Rugby Championships held in Maryland in April.
Entering as the No. 1 seed in the West region, Bruno defeated Kutztown University, the University of Northern Iowa, the United States Naval Academy and No. 1 East seed Army en route to earning the Rugby 7’s Premier Division National Championship. Over the tournament, the team dominated its competition, outscoring opponents 123-19.
September: Taylor Virtue leads volleyball to roaring start in first season as head coach
In her first season leading the team, women’s volleyball Head Coach Taylor Virtue managed the most wins for a first-year head coach in program history, including an 8-0 run to open the season in which the Bears won 24 of 28 sets. Virtue began with the program as an assistant in the Bears’ Ivy Championship 2021 campaign.
Despite losing to Yale in the Ivy Championship in November, the team has plenty to be excited about in Virtue’s second season at the helm, with two of their three first team all-Ivy selections — Beau Vanderlaan ’25 and Jessie Golden ’26 — returning for 2024.
September: Football takes opening-day thriller, sets tone for future comebacks
In their first game of the 2023 season against Bryant Sept. 16, the football team seized a sensational victory on their final possession, covering 76 yards in 43 seconds.
The win set the tone for a season in which the never-say-die Bears earned multiple dramatic victories, including overtime wins against Princeton and Columbia and a nail-biter against Penn. The win also marked the start of a season filled with standout performances from quarterback Jake Willcox ’24 and receiver Wes Rockett ’23.5, who were named second- and first-team all-Ivy, respectively, at the conclusion of the season.
October: Men’s water polo wins 14 of 18 to conclude season
Rebounding from consecutive losses to start the month of October, the men’s water
polo team proceeded to go on a 14-4 tear to conclude their season, featuring an eight-game winning streak from Oct. 8-22. This stretch included a record-setting performance from Ilias Stothart ’26, whose 10 goals in a 21-14 win over Occidental College on Oct. 15 marked the most in Bruno’s history.
After their second-half surge, the Bears were held back by a postseason loss to Harvard. By defeating Long Island University and Iona University, the Bears managed to seize third place in the NWPC Tournament.
October: Women’s soccer completes Ivy four-peat, Brittany Raphino ’23.5 earns award three-peat
With a win over Cornell Oct. 21, the women’s soccer team clinched its fourth consecutive Ivy League title. Writing a new chapter of their dynasty, the Bears continued to dominate the competition, extending their regular season conference unbeaten streak originating in 2018 to an incredible 29 games. Though they fell as the top seed to Columbia in the first round of the inaugural Ivy Tournament, the Bears earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the second round for the third time in four years.
2023 marked the final season for a core group of graduating seniors including Ava Seelenfreund ’23.5, Sheyenne Allen ’23.5 and Brittany Raphino ’23.5, with Raphino becoming the first player in Ivy League history to win three straight Ivy Offensive Player of the Year Awards. Head Coach Kia McNeill was also named Ivy Coach of the Year.
November: Men’s soccer sustains unbeaten streak, makes miraculous run to Ivy championship final
Entering the fall ranked seventh on the Ivy Preseason Poll, the men’s soccer team stunned the league with their postseason run. Riding an 11-game unbeaten streak which included five 0-0 ties, the Bears snuck into the inaugural Ivy tournament as the No. 4 seed, where they upset Penn in an instant classic decided by penalty kicks.
The team was finally bested Nov. 12 in the Ivy Championship against Yale, marking Bruno’s first loss in almost two months. Despite falling one win short of a conference title, the group provided an unforgettable finish and defied expectations in 2023.
Dennis Carey is a Sports Editor who enjoys playing volleyball, listening to and collecting vinyl records, and poorly playing the guitar in his spare time.
Linus is a sports editor from New York City. He is a junior concentrating in English, and when he's out of The Herald office you can find him rooting for the Mets, watching Star Wars or listening to The Beach Boys.
Haley Sandlow is a section editor covering science and research as well as admissions and financial aid. She is a junior from Chicago, Illinois, studying English and French.