Crusader Nation

Fall 2016

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4 Crusader Nation • Fall 2016 New coach Any transition, Brown admits, comes with a few bumps along the way: a new approach to the game, a new style of play and, for some players, new positions. "It's been a rollercoaster for sure," she said, "but they're awesome kids and very good soccer players and they want big things." And Brown should know about those qualities: she's demonstrated them as a player and a coach. Brown played defense at Boston University, from 2006 to 2009. She performed well enough to warrant being drafted by the Boston Breakers of the now-defunct Women's Pro- fessional Soccer League. Instead of turning pro, she headed to the coaching ranks, landing a job as an assistant at Long Island Uni- versity Brooklyn from 2010 to 2012, before joining the coaching staff at her alma mater. In her final season at BU in 2015, Brown won a re- gional assistant coach of the year honor. Eight days after that honor was announced, she was unveiled as Holy Cross' new head coach. She credits BU coach Nancy Feldman with helping her ascend the coaching ranks so quickly. "I can't speak highly enough of Nancy. She molded me as a student- athlete and then later when I went back to work for her for almost four seasons. She is the best of the best, in my opinion." Her playing and coach- ing education at BU is part of the reason Brown, little more than six years removed from her college graduation, is taking the reins of a Division I program. "I felt like I was absolutely prepared to go out and have my own program," Brown said. "I don't claim that I have all the answers, but I do have the tools to solve the things that come my way." So far, so good: Sophomore Andj Seslija, a member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina women's national team, numbers among those im- pressed with Brown's early performance. "I've been trained by a lot of coaches and I can say she is one of the best I've ever had." New approach On a macro level, Casey Brown's Crusaders aim to be a highly organized, possession-focused team. "First and foremost, I want us to be a team that keeps and shares the ball, but with tempo," Brown said. "It's possession with a purpose: to get forward. "I also want us to be one of the most organized defen- sive teams in the confer- ence, no doubt about it. That takes a huge commit- ment on the players' end and a huge effort on my end. But, if that's there, we can play with any team in the conference." The early mornings are just one of the changes aimed at achieving those twin goals. Off the field, team cama- raderie has been fostered by shared meals and study halls. On the field, there's a heightened intensity to training and an extra em- phasis on the details. "Everyone has always worked hard," said Maggie Carey, a senior captain. "But now the focus is on the little things." And that should help engender Brown's vision of "team cohesion and a gritty attitude." "The mentality is: we're going to be a 90-minute team," said Brown. "We're going to be fighters on the field. If we lose the ball, we get it back quickly — there's no lull after a mistake." Aspirations into action Two years ago, the women's team won 10 of its 18 games. A year ago, it just missed the Patriot League tournament. This fall, the goal is to play in the postseason with a shot at the title. "This season, I expect us to build our reputation in the league," said junior captain Emily George. We were just points away from making the Patriot League tourna- ment last year, so this year making the tournament is definitely high on the list." Or, as Carey put, it: "Once you're in the tournament, it's anyone's ball game — as the Basketball team has shown." Getting there is a game- by-game process, Brown and her players said. That started at home against Iona on Aug. 19. Fourteen games later — an eternity in a 17-game season — the Crusaders will host BU. A win would help Holy Cross step closer to the Turnpike Trophy — a competition be- tween the two schools that spans more than 20 teams. Just don't expect Brown to get caught up in the hype of facing her old team. "Everyone wants to talk about the reunion game, but I'm so excited about the fall in general," she said. And the players share in that excitement, not only for the upcoming season but also for the direction of the program. "Every year, the team has gotten better with higher- level players and coaches with more experience," said Malone. "The team from this season is going to get so much better at such a faster pace. And we're right there. We're ready to be an impact team in the Patriot League." "I don't claim that I have all the answers, but I do have the tools to solve the things that come my way." – Casey Brown The Crusaders celebrate their first goal in a 2-1 win over Army in 2015.

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