Senior Anne Browning Leaves Goal for Seat in Boat
But not this year.
While training at the Pre-Elite Camp at the Olympic Center in San Diego this summer, Browning decided that to make it to the next level in crew, she would need to concentrate on and complete all the scheduled endurance workouts in the fall. That left no room for soccer.
"My decision was based on needing to specialize," Browning said. "It had nothing to do with disliking soccer. I love soccer, and the Harvard team is a great team. But not having the endurance base in crew affects my performance in the spring. Hopefully this commitment will act as a springboard towards having a great spring."
Browning, elected captain after two seasons of rowing in the NCAA-qualifying first boat, has a deep passion for crew, which she said stems from two sources: an incredible season on novice crew and the sport's inherent intensity.
During her freshman year, her strong work ethic led the novice crew to an undefeated season, capped off by titles at both the Eastern Sprints and the NCAA championships in 1997.
"That year was a life-changing experience," Browning said. "It taught me more about who I am as an athlete and a competitor."
But Browning did not get to pick up in her sophomore year where she left off at the end of freshman year, due to an unfortunate injury suffered in the NCAA soccer championships.
With 40 seconds remaining in regular time of Harvard's round-of-16 playoff game at Ohiri Field, a George Mason forward, who was playing a loose ball, kicked Browning in the face, resulting in a broken bone directly under Browning's eye.
After undergoing intensive surgery and a rehabilitation process that caused her to lose weight and miss workouts, Browning returned to crew. But the entire year would prove to be an extended battle to recover her previous form.
Following her impressive freshman year, Browning expected to make a bigger leap in her rowing ability during her sophomore season. But that expectation was stymied by her inability to enter the season with the same strength.
She returned to soccer last fall, her junior year.
"I needed to make sure that I did not have any lingering fear," Browning said. "I needed to prove that to myself."
She did, but the team's performance was disappointing to her. The Crimson failed to win the Ivy title for the first time in three years, finishing second behind Dartmouth, an eventual NCAA quarterfinalist. The team seemed to lack the intensity that characterized Harvard throughout its NCAA bid the former year.
One year after falling to powerhouse North Carolina in the quarterfinals, The Crimson (12-5-1, 6-1 Ivy) dropped out of the NCAA tournament in the second round with a 3-0 loss at Hartford.
"I would have to say that my training partners, [backup goalkeepers] Jennifer Burney '99 and Meredith Bagley '99, made soccer what it was for me last year," Browning said. "Our team had a lot of talent, but unfortunately it didn't convert to winning games. But overall, I have wonderful memories of my years with Harvard soccer. That team is a great team and I had fabulous defenders."
Browning said that two moments stand out as the most memorable in her Harvard career: sophomore Erin Aeschliman's two goals against UMass in the 1997 NCAA tournament, and co-captain Jessie Larson's slide tackle that saved a goal in the rematch against George Mason in 1998.
Last year, Browning compiled a 0.99 goals-against average and a .814 save percentage. Her departure leaves the team bereft of an experienced goalkeeper.
However, sophomore Robyn Scatena and freshman Cheryl Gunther both enter the season with impressive backgrounds. Recently, Gunther has been showing her strong capabilities in the net as she has received a lot of playing time.
In the weekend's games, Gunther played 159 minutes in net and made five saves while allowing just one goal, good for a .833 save percentage and a 0.57 goals-against average.
Scatena was beaten 1-0 at UNH on Wednesday in her first collegiate start.
"Anne was obviously a very special player and a big part of this team, and we, of course, are going to miss her," Harvard women's soccer Coach Tim Wheaton said. "But we're happy with our goalie situation as it stands right now, so we've been able to bounce back from that. Our defense is still very good."
As the soccer team moves on, so do Browning and the Radcliffe crew.
"Rowing requires a certain mentality. You have to trust the work ethic of the team, for there is no individual star," Browning said. "Success is based on the effort of everyone together, and my teammates make sacrifices for the team. No one does anything to potentially harm her performance, and we have a dry season. The connections are built inside the boathouse and on the water, and, as such, we do not spend much time together outside of crew. Rowing is an extreme sport, not a social sport."
After finishing sixth at NCAAs and fourth at the Eastern Sprints last year, the first varsity heavyweight boat, with Browning as captain, looks to make a strong run at both titles this year. Crew workouts begin in full on the first day of classes.
Throughout her decision-making process, Browning was fortunate to have two supportive coaches in Wheaton and the Radcliffe heavyweight Coach Liz O'Leary.
Although Wheaton is admittedly disappointed that she will not be playing her senior year, he said respects her decision because of her passion for crew.
"He is a great coach, and an even better person," Browning said of Wheaton. "As a coach, he might be sad about the decision, but as a friend, he is happy. That means a great deal to me."
Meanwhile, O'Leary couldn't be happier. She said that, as captain, Browning will be more effective by being with the crew for the whole year. But she was supportive of whatever Browning wanted to pursue, and often attended Browning's home soccer games in the past to cheer her on.
The most difficult part of making her decision known was not telling her coaches. Rather, Browning said having to tell her parents was the hardest thing to do.
Her mother, upon hearing that Browning was considering dropping soccer, said, "Your father will cry."
After Harvard, Browning is planning to continue rowing, perhaps at the Olympic Center in San Diego, to see if rowing, possibly for the U.S. National Team, is something she could pursue. Eventually she would like to teach and coach.
Meanwhile, Browning heads to the water at 6:30 a.m. every morning to ready herself for a drive towards the national championship. And the soccer team, with its new goalkeepers, focuses on its quest to reclaim the Ivy title.