The Colgate Scene
September 1999
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Sheer Brawn
Using more than muscle, women's soccer teams have collected championships year after year by believing they would win and working hard in support of talent -- reflecting in the process their coach's attitude.
by John D. Hubbard
"We've had players who believe they can accomplish things," said Kathy Brawn during the preseason of her ninth year as head coach of the women's soccer team. The Red Raiders have been nearly invincible during the '90s, winning eight of nine Patriot League championships and capturing the ECAC crown the one season the conference crown eluded them.

     "Our players don't let what others say get in the way." In saying that, Brawn acknowledged the doubters who felt a small college with no athletic scholarships and high academic standards couldn't attract the players needed to compete successfully season after season.

     "Now that people know about us, they are better prepared, but we are more talented now, too." Winning helps recruiting, of course, but so does Brawn's honesty and willingness to give an opportunity to a player who might seem too small or constricted within a system and therefore has been passed over.

     "When so many of these players have been given a chance, they have blossomed, and you see that academically and socially, too. It's typically not just one component of their life at Colgate."

     It is that blossoming, that transformation, that fuels Brawn.

     "I really like what I'm doing and I like Colgate. It's easy to recruit because I believe what I'm saying. The truth is quite impressive.

     "I think the biggest part of my job is to help people feel good about themselves and what they are doing. From that comes all the things you associate with what a coach does."

It has been built up over entire seasons, in single games, even in the split second it takes one player to launch a shot and another to make a save.

     Brawn's first team, during the fall of 1991, finished the regular season at .500 and was seeded third among the four teams qualifying for the championship tournament. To begin, the Red Raiders beat Holy Cross for the first time ever and then met top seed Army at West Point.

     The mules were there, the band was there and the game ball was parachuted in.

     "It made for quite a spectacle, but it was a great atmosphere," reported Brawn. Colgate won in overtime. It was the first of what have become classic showdowns between the United States Military Academy and Colgate.

     The year the Red Raiders lost, their effort in the championship game was so heroic most folks remember it as a victory. Playing at home during a blizzard, Colgate fell behind Army 3-0 at the half. As if the conditions weren't enough, four starters had been injured during the season and were unable to play. Despite it all, the Red Raiders battled back to tie the game before eventually losing.

     In yet another championship contest with Army, played on Whitnall Field, which was completely ringed by fans, Colgate prevailed in quadruple overtime. Battling the odds is an integral part of the Colgate spirit, and those who think it is limited only to Andy Kerr Stadium simply haven't seen the women in November.

     "We have this winning tradition and when you can call on that it helps and is a huge source of pride," said Brawn, but she noted it is a double-edged sword.

     "Last year's team felt a great deal of pressure -- that maybe they weren't good enough to carry on the tradition." The team righted itself, won the Patriot League championship and went to the NCAA tournament for the second time. Now the bar has been raised.

     "I believe we can win every single game we play. I hope and think that transfers to the players. To not get to the finals -- that would be a failure, and we never talk about that."

     Instead, Brawn's players talk about advancing in the NCAAs, not merely showing up. The view from preseason appears rosy, too. According to Brawn, a great group of first-years has joined a strong core of veteran players. The schedule is strong enough, too, so that the team should be well-prepared for the rigors of tournament time.

     "We have soccer junkies now. They watched the World Cup and enjoyed it, but picked up things, too. And they aren't satisfied just getting to the NCAAs. They are disappointed they've lost two games. If you have that attitude with talent and a work ethic, you can go far."

     It all starts with going beyond.

     "I enjoy seeing someone grow and accomplish more than she ever thought she'd accomplish. It's important for me to set up that kind of atmosphere."

     Kathy Brawn believes her players can. And they do.

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