Great soccer goalkeepers are courageous and fearless. They’re willing to throw their bodies around, to dive, jump, and risk everything to keep the ball out of the net. As the only player who can see everyone on the field, the net-minder must also be able to communicate with and direct her own players.
Senior Hilary Wilson is one of the best in Brown history. As a transfer student, last year she tied the school record for single-season saves with 145—sixty-five more than anyone else in the Ivy League. This season she’s stayed in top form, recording 116 saves—an average of 7.73 a game—and posting four shutouts. It’s been a tough season though: the Bears have struggled offensively. All eight of their losses have come by one goal.
When Wilson first started looking at colleges, neither Brown nor any other East Coast school was on her list. Instead, the Monterrey, California, resident enrolled at Arizona State, which as a Pac-10 school, competes in a league that’s consistently ranked at the top in soccer. “Playing soccer at a university that large is like having a full-time job,” Wilson says. “They do put an emphasis on academics, but realistically you are brought there to play.”
Sophomore year, she decided she wanted to focus more on academics. “I had to look at the long run and realize that I’m probably not going to play for the national team,” she says. “I wanted to go do other things in my career, and I really wanted to have a well-rounded college experience.”
The ASU coaches helped, and Wilson’s search brought her to the attention of Brown’s longtime head coach Phil Pincince, who, after losing All-Ivy goalkeeper Sarah Gervais ’04 to graduation, had a hole to fill in front of the net.
The transition from Tempe to Providence was not without challenges. “When I look back at going from my little hometown to Arizona State, to transferring here, I’m just amazed about how I feel that God has taken care of me and the path that I’m on right now,” Wilson says. “Deciding to transfer was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I had to leave something that was safe and I was basically throwing myself out there.”
Wilson quickly endeared herself to her new teammates. “She fit in so well because she’s such a nice girl,” says teammate Jamie Johnson ’06. “She was outgoing from the start.”
Having started out in ASU’s business honors program, Wilson decided to concentrate in Public and Private Sector Organizations—the closest thing Brown offers to a business degree. “I felt like I had been given a fresh start when I transferred,” she says, “and I wanted to make the most of my two years here.”
The fit on the soccer field, meanwhile, was perfect for the Bears, as Wilson posted four shutouts and a 1.16 goals-against average. Her play earned her Honorable Mention All-Ivy, and more importantly, the admiration of her teammates, who selected her as the squad’s most valuable player. “She just comes out of nowhere,” says Johnson. “She owns the eighteen-yard box, every inch of it. Her awareness is impeccable; she just knows where to be.”
Pincince concurs. “I think she’s good at picking the moments when she needs to lead and when she just needs to be doing her job and setting the example,” he says. After just one season, her teammates voted her a tricaptain.
Unfortunately, Wilson’s time at Brown is already approaching an end. She hopes to earn an MBA and go on to a corporate career. Between the end of soccer season and Commencement, however, she is ready to climb into the bleachers as a softball fan. On that team is her sister Kelsey, a first-year student whom Hilary admits to helping recruit.
Pincince, meanwhile, reflects on how Wilson’s decision to transfer worked so well for everyone involved. “Not only did she get lucky about Brown University. We got lucky,” he says. “It’s what I call a win-win-win situation. For Brown women’s soccer, Brown, and Hilary Wilson.”