Only 45 minutes into her college career, goalkeeper Abbey Brown had made a big impression on her new coach.
“Watching her start the first half of a game, she looked calm,” Dominican University women’s soccer coach Carlos Carrillo said. “She looked composed. Her confidence just showed and her team feeds off of that.”
Brown, a freshman from Huntley, helped NCAA Division III Dominican shut out Principia, 5-0, on that September day, which began the winningest season in school history.
With Brown in goal, the Stars (17-0-4) won their first Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference tournament title, earned their first NCAA postseason berth and set a school record for single-season wins.
“It’s been historical,” Carrillo said. “It’s been exciting. It’s been fun. Throughout the year, our student-athletes have been confident, composed and up for the challenge.”
Just months removed from playing in high school, Brown has made a splash. She has 15 shutouts and has allowed seven goals all season.
“I’m just happy that I got the opportunity to start my freshman year and get to play on a great team,” she said. “I’m very happy with how it’s gone.”
Brown ranks third in the nation in goalie minutes played (1,896), 11th in goals-against average (.332) and 14th in save percentage (.889).
While recruiting Brown, Carrillo said her confidence and talent stood out immediately.
“She doesn’t ever look nervous,” he said. “When I first saw her play, she was obviously very talented. She has good size, good hands. Her effort is unreal. I knew she had the ability to come into any program and compete for a starting spot.
“She came in and was confident from day one,” he said. “She competed and she earned her time. She hasn’t let it go since.”
Brown’s approach to college was simple.
“I knew I had nothing to lose as a freshman, so I just tried my best and worked as hard as I could,” she said. “All the freshmen were terrified. No one knows what to expect, and it’s all just so new. I was more confident in the team than myself early in the season.”
The Stars made an early September trip to Ohio for games against Kenyon and Denison, two consistently strong teams. Dominican tied Denison, 0-0, then rallied from a two-goal deficit with 8 minutes remaining to beat Kenyon, 4-3, in overtime.
Carrillo credits a strong defense along with Brown. That defensive line includes sophomore defender Sara Bartczyszyn of Cary-Grove.
“It’s always nice having her on the back line,” said Brown, whose team will face defending national champion Washington University of St. Louis in the opening round of the NCAAs at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. “She plays smart defense. She knows just when to go in and tackle the ball and win it. She keeps it calm in the back.”
Baker earns runner-up finish: Loyola University senior Alex Baker (Crystal Lake Central) earned second place last weekend at the Missouri Valley Conference cross country championships in Springfield, Mo.
Baker, a senior who ran the 8-kilometer event in 24 minutes, 37.9 seconds, finished only 1 second behind individual champion Jake Hoffert of Bradley for his best career MVC individual finish. Baker, who placed ninth a year ago, earned first-team All-MVC honors for the second consecutive season.
National praise for Marian grad: Thomas Lesniewski, a junior defensive end at D-III Monmouth (Ill.) College, was named Tuesday to the D3Football.com National Team of the Week.
The Marian Central grad had eight tackles, two sacks, 4 1/2 tackles for loss and three pass breakups in Monmouth’s 52-10 victory over Knox in the annual Battle for the Bronze Turkey game. Monmouth has won 19 in a row in the rivalry.
Lesniewski also was named the Midwest Conference Defensive Performer of the Week for his effort. The Scots (8-1) host St. Norbert (7-2) Saturday in a game that will decide the conference title and the league’s automatic NCAA playoff berth.
Four-time winner: Bradley University senior goalkeeper Brandon Barnes was honored Monday as the Missouri Valley Conference men’s soccer Defensive Player of the Week, his fourth weekly honor of the season.
Barnes, a Prairie Ridge grad, helped the Braves (11-7-2) to a 1-0-1 record last week, securing third place in the conference standings with a 1-0 victory against Valparaiso. Barnes has a school-record 9.5 shutouts this season and is fourth in the nation in saves (96), save percentage (.857) and goalie minutes (1,777).
With his fourth weekly award, Barnes tied for the school record with Adam Gross in 2000.
Bessey helps secure title: Huntley grad Samantha Bessey converted a penalty kick last weekend to lift D-III Lesley University of Massachusetts to a win in PKs (5-4) over Elms College in the championship game of the New England Collegiate Conference tournament.
Bessey, a junior forward, has eight goals this season for the top-seeded Lynx (16-2-3). Lesley has won three of the last four NECC titles and played to a 0-0 tie with No. 2 seed Elms before the penalty-kick heroics. The Lynx open NCAA tournament play this weekend.
Bessey earned second-team All-NECC honors this season.
Redhawk on a roll: Ally Dion, a freshman defensive specialist for D-I Southeast Missouri’s volleyball team, posted a career-high 30 digs last weekend against Murray State and added 12 more against Austin Peay for the Redhawks (10-18).
For her efforts, she was named one of the school’s two Athletes of the Week on Monday.
The Huntley grad leads the team with 298 digs this season (3.35 per set).
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.