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Brown's 1st Varsity W is a Big One

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Brown's 1st Varsity W is a Big One

The Ivy League kicked off in great fashion, as the two women’s varsity teams met in what was likely the toughest game of the regular season. The match was even more special for Brown, not only because it was the Bears’ first as a varsity team (Harvard was christened a year ago) but for the 24-15 win as well.

“We weren’t surprised with the win,” Brown coach Kathy Flores said. “We didn’t think we were going to go in there and stomp Harvard or anything, but we knew it was going to be a battle. There’s a different attitude this year than last year. We fought for it and won – and that’s what we were always going to do.”

There were four lead changes throughout the match, and the scoring didn't get going until 20 minutes in. Brown got into good position after an errant pass allowed the Bears to return the ball to Harvard's end (although a fantastic chase from Anabiet Abasi prevented the breakaway score). Three minutes later, however, inside center and captain Oksana Goretaya found a hole and scored beneath the posts. Sofie Rudin converted for the 7-0 lead.

Harvard answered with back-to-back tries - one from Taciana Pereira, the other from Mariah Turner - to go ahead 10-7 with 30 minutes gone.

Lead-change #2 occurred right before the half, when prop Elisha Miles took a turnover ball back into Harvard territory. The ball eventually made its way to flyer Kiki Morgan, who dotted down for the 12-10 edge.

In the second half, another 15 minutes passed before the scoreboard ticked over. A botched kick from Brown's 10 meter put Harvard in good attacking position, and Turner stormed down the field for her second try of the day, 15-12.

Brown leaned on its forwards, and captain Tiara Mack and prop Daisy Alvarado-Munoz helped lead an offensive assault on the fringes. A seam eventually opened up for scrumhalf Amber Reano, and the junior slipped past the defense for the converted (Rudin) try, 19-15.

Eight minutes remained, but the death knell occurred with three to go. Goretaya tore down the sideline, and just before the tackle, Morgan called for a switch back inside and finished the run in the try zone, 24-15 to Brown.

“It was a very exciting game,” Flores confirmed. “Even when Harvard went down to 14 players, they were still very competitive. Harvard was missing a couple of players, too, but I’d like to think we still would have won [even if they played].”

The Crimson was missing top recruit Haley Langan, a Junior All American, who is fresh off of the Youth Olympic Games and tore her ACL. Brown was battling some roster issues, too. As a varsity program, athletes must be cleared medically and by the NCAA before taking the practice field. That process and the paperwork that follows can take up to three weeks. Gone are the days when recruits are found on campus, on the practice field the next day, and starting that Saturday.

Flores acknowledged that, in the scheme of things, the waiting period is a minor price to pay. In fact, she can already see a shift in the team's attitude, and that pay-off is much more influential.

“I do think so,” Flores affirmed that the program’s elevated status contributed to Saturday’s win. “When there was a club mentality, there was a certain culture for that team. Players came out because their friends came out. A part of that group of kids graduated when I came in, and some have really stepped up and committed to becoming a varsity athlete. And we have a few other athletes on board. In terms of culture, the stakes are higher, and we have two good captains who set the standard.

“Junior Tiara Mack, she’s a neuroscience major,” Flores said of the forwards captain. “She’s not super emotional; just works hard and gets the job done. [Backs captain] Oksy [Oksana] Goretaya is pretty much the same way. She works super hard, too, but she’ll make a big joke and loosen everyone up. We demand a lot, and the captains keep it on par, but are still positive.”

Goretaya is a sophomore but has less than a semester’s experience. In so little time, she’s not only a captain but the major scoring threat in the backline. In the forwards, keep an eye on front row sophomore Alvarado-Munoz. She comes from softball and “is just in it,” Flores said. The prop loves contact, loves to run with the ball, and already has good decision-making skills.

But it’s not just the players who are getting comfortable in their new roles; Flores has had to adjust, too. As the long-time coach of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) Berkeley All Blues, not to mention former USA Women National Team coach, Flores has primarily worked with post-collegiate adults. The coach has had to adjust her expectations.

“School is very important to Ivy League kids,” Flores said. “They’re here for school and a thousand other things when they’re here. They’re doing rugby but also dance club, a Capella, etc. I have to split my time with these other clubs. And school – it feels like there’s a midterm every other day. So you have to take care of them in that way. In the WPL, everyone’s challenging for a spot, so everyone’s at practice. It’s not exactly the same here.”

As for what may lie ahead this season, Flores isn’t making any predictions.

“We just have so much work to do,” Flores said after the win. “I’m not trying to sound humble in that way. I’m happy we won, and I saw a lot of good things we did. But when I watched the tape, I saw a lot of things we got away with. I’m not sure if the referee was just trying to keep the game moving, or didn’t think certain things were material – but I thought they we were material, and we need to clean it up. Everyone’s only getting better, but we need to sharpen up.”

Brown will have more time to refine its game against Tier B Penn this weekend, while Harvard will look for a rebounding performance against Yale. Dartmouth and Princeton will play their first league game of the season against each other this Saturday.