Bests and Worsts

May 3rd, 2007

You can yell and scream that Brown varsity sports are in dire need of more funding and fan support, or that the women’s squads always seem to outdo the men’s; but if you’d made these complaints this past November, even the most cynical and hard-to-satisfy Brown fan would have told you to keep a lid on it. With its first Ivy football crown in twenty-three years and a men’s soccer squad in the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, the male Bears have had a very good year indeed.

Which is not to say that the women had an off one. Hardly. After another spectacular season, the women’s hockey team, for example, made an amazing run at the national title (see "Every Honor But One," Sports, May/June), while the up-and-coming women fencing team, by concluding its season sixth overall, had its best finish ever in the Intercollegiate Fencing Association Championship.

As usual, there were individual standouts, with All-Ivy and All-American honors all over the place. Among the best were Ali Brewer ’00, who was named the best female hockey player in the country, and Trinity Gray ’00, who continued his quest to become the world’s fastest half-miler. For most teams, of course, it was a year of hard-fought games and occasional struggles, with some just missing various Ivy or ECAC titles. But even for the teams that ended with losing records, the Ivy title in football gave the air a hopeful tinge. Now that one of Brown’s perennial jinxes was lifted, maybe, just maybe, anything would be possible.

Best Iron Men Imitation. You want to talk football legends? Brown’s greatest football team, the 1926 "Iron Men," went 9-0-1. But the millennial Bears put together a season nearly as storied, as they grabbed a share of their first Ivy League title since 1976 (which, like this one, was shared with Yale), and raced to a 9-1 overall record (6-1 Ivy).

So much went right that singling out highlights is difficult. No fewer than thirteen Brown players won All-Ivy honors, including quarterback James Perry ’00, who finished his college career with 9,294 passing yards. Perry broke almost every Ivy passing record and was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. Wide receiver Charles Gessner ’03, meanwhile, broke many of Sean Morey’s first-year pass-catching marks on his way to earning top honors as the league’s Rookie of the Year.

Besides Perry, Brown’s first-team All-Ivy designees were receiver Steve Campbell ’02, who was the league’s best at that position; offensive guard Jason Wargin ’00; and linebacker Louis Ames ’00. Coach Phil Estes earned widespread praise for getting his team to gel in a way that few Brown squads ever have. He and defensive coordinator Dave Duggan ended their season with the ultimate reward: a dousing with Gatorade after the final 23-6 win over Columbia.

Shortest-Lived School Record. In recent seasons, the Brown men’s and women’s basketball teams have often looked to a single key player for the bulk of their offensive production. The 1999-2000 campaign added a new and bizarre twist: all of a sudden both squads found themselves being paced by freshmen – brilliantly talented, record-setting freshmen. A strange result was one of the shortest runs ever for a significant Brown sports record.

On January 15, forward Earl Hunt ’03 was on top of the world. The leading Ivy scorer, he had just set a school record for the most points scored in a game (and the most tallied by any player in a Brown gym) by pouring in thirty-nine at the Pizzitola Center versus Harvard.

Oddly enough both records stood only until March 3, when women’s basketball sensation Barbara Maloni ’03 cranked up her already high-powered game and notched forty against the University of Pennsylvania. Maloni went on to be named second-team All Ivy after finishing the year ranked second in the league in steals and third in scoring.

Best Overtime Boot. Even though the men’s soccer team has been in eighteen NCAA tournaments through the years, by the end of last year the first round of the national tourney was beginning to feel like a hex: the squad had fallen to St. John’s in that round for two years in a row. But bad luck vanished last fall when middle-forward Scott Powers ’01 kicked home a sudden-death-overtime goal to lead Brown past the University of Rhode Island, 2-1, and into the tournament’s Sweet 16 second round. "It’s a shame anyone had to lose this game," concluded head coach Mike Noonan.

Though the Bears ultimately fell to the sixth-seeded University of Virginia, they had few regrets. They finished their season 13-5, the nineteenth-best team in the nation, allowing just four goals in seven crucial contests prior to the game against Virginia.

Worst Case of Fan Attrition. When President E. Gordon Gee announced his surprise departure in February, the University began confronting the loss not only of its academic and administrative leader but, according to many observers, one of its most visibly enthusiastic sports fans.

Having come to Brown from such sports-crazed institutions as the University of Colorado and Ohio State, Gee filled his University Hall office with Bear booster items, showed up at every single home football game, and squeezed onto the bench during women’s basketball games.

Various athletes and coaches recall that the prexy with the shortest tenure in Brown history even had a tendency to hang around during varsity practices. In fact, in the words of men’s hockey head coach Roger Grillo, it was the sudden absence of a bow-tied figure pacing in the rink’s shadows that tipped some off to the possibility of a change at the top. "I knew something was up," Grillo now says, "when we hadn’t spotted him for a couple of weeks."


Best Net Minder. Everyone knew ice- hockey goalie Ali Brewer ’00 was one of the best in the business, but few could have predicted the outpouring of honors at the end of her 2000 season: Ivy League Player of the Year, ECAC Goaltender of the Year, and the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for the outstanding player in women’s college hockey. "I always have faith in myself," said Brewer, who compiled a 1.33 goals-against average, "but I never thought this would happen."

Brewer’s thirty-five saves clinched a 6-3 victory over Dartmouth in late March, when the women solidified their number-one national ranking and captured the ECAC Division I championship. It was the third time the Bears had beaten the Big Green during the season, and they would do so yet again a few days later en route to their heartbreaking national-title-game loss to the University of Minnesota, 4-2.

Most Painful Payback. Some old-time Bear fans claim that, if you boil things down to their essentials, Brown’s key Ivy rival is not Harvard or Yale, but Dartmouth. This was good news to the women’s hockey team, which, as noted above, beat this rival school three times this season. It was, however, bad news for the baseball squad, which served as Dartmouth’s payback victim. Over a span of two days in mid-April the league-leading Big Green bombers beat Brown by scores of 7-4, 14-0, 2-1, and 6-3. Oh, well. There’s always next year for payback to the payback.

Best Team for Number Crunchers. Last fall’s field hockey squad turned out to be a statistician’s dream team. Not only did the Bears grab their first NCAA appearance and a share of their first Ivy title since 1991; they managed to set new school records for wins in a season (thirteen); team goals in a season (277); individual goals in a game, season, and career; individual assists in a game, season, and career; and individual points in a game, season, and career.

Ranked seventeenth in the nation, the Bears generated so many net-bound shots (and so much numerical data) thanks, in part, to forward Tara Mounsey ’01, who racked up the individual goal and point marks, and midfielders Kim Rogers ’00 and Megan Patterson ’02, who shared the new school mark for season assists.

Least-Known Good Team. Few fans gather at the finish line to cheer the women’s cross-country squad home, but as is the case with all of coach Bob Rothenberg’s teams, the harriers regularly display more than their share of talent, intelligence, and just plain guts.

This year’s women’s squad was paced by Sara Tindall ’01, while other standouts included captain Laura Sobik ’00, Michelle Gross ’01, and Rosie Woodford ’03. Tindall captured the individual Heptagonal championship and led Brown not only to the team Heptagonal crown, but to an NCAA championship berth as well.

Not a bad season for Bears who do their running mostly in silence, deep in the woods.

Worst Scare. Anyone who follows Brown sports will remember last year’s women’s crew – the first team in the University’s history to win an NCAA championship after picking up the Eastern and Ivy League crowns. Early this spring, head coach John Murphy’s varsity boat grabbed its first three races and looked every bit as strong.

A team that likes to start by taking the measure of its competition and finishing strong, the Bears had a close call in their race against Boston University on April 22. The Terriers jumped out to a convincing lead, thanks to unusually flat water, a tailwind, and an extremely combative B.U. eight. But the Bears rose to the challenge, picked up the pace just past the halfway mark, and ended up notching a come-from-behind victory – as well as setting a new Seekonk River women’s record of 6:07.64 for 2,000 meters.

As one onlooker was heard to say: "Bring on the next victim."

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
July / August 2000