Molly Brown the Unsinkable: Ready to Rise Again? (2014 Season Preview)

A first look at a revamped and ready Molly Brown squad.

Molly Brown 2014 Preview
Photo by Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

After its creation in 2010, Molly Brown showed increasingly impressive results by placing 9th, 7th, and 5th at Nationals. Despite last year’s somewhat disappointing drop to finishing 11th, Molly Brown is entering its fifth season infused with new talent, including 2013 Callahan winner Claire Chastain, and an unconventional leadership structure.

Coachless in Denver

In a noteworthy and surprising move for a Pro or Elite-flight team, Molly Brown has chosen to forego a coach for the 2014 season, making them the highest-ranked US women’s team without one1. After former coach Catt Wilson decided he was unable to remain for a fifth year of coaching, the leadership team held discussions about who could replace him but ultimately decided to go it alone.

“We will have to hear and listen and trust each other to make it work,” explains captain Carolyn Matthews. This experiment will require a high degree of investment, communicativeness, and involvement from all the players.

While Matthews acknowledges that there will be challenges, she believes that they can be overcome or avoided, and that ultimately the decision will set them apart in a positive way.

“We are seeing no drop offs [in practice intensity] from not having a coach,” says Matthews. “Because we’re practicing with an intense group of people, we are running hard no matter what.”

The captains hope to instill a culture of self-reliance and accountability, where everyone from the newest and youngest player up to the most experienced veteran will be responsible for not only knowing systems of offense and defense but also being independent and creative on the field within them.

Given the overall youth of the team and its variable track record, it remains to be seen if the team can handle the challenge of collective responsibility. But its captains believe Molly is up to the test.

Matthews says the new structure will require “some patience” and lots of communication early in the season, but that they are focused on creating a tight-knit squad to facilitate that process. To this end, they eschewed traditional practice players this year, opting only for “practice enhancers”: formerly rostered players who cannot play this year in the Series. They have to hope, however, that no injuries will challenge their 24-person roster. “We’re going to be very fit – we’ll have to be,” says Matthews of their squad size.

Recognizable New Faces

One of the earliest stories to emerge surrounding Molly Brown in 2014 was the acquisition of Claire Chastain (Phoenix), 2013 Callahan winner and key contributor to the Team USA U-23 Women’s squad last summer. Chastain is a game changing all-around threat with dynamic, aggressive disc movement and a ferocious defensive presence. Other significant pickups for the Colorado women were the additions of Lauren Baecher of Brute Squad and Lisi Lohre, fresh off of her last college appearance at Nationals.

Like the 2013 season, which saw the loss of key personnel such as Anna Schott and Kath Ratcliff, the 2014 roster has seen a good amount of turnover. Solid contributors like Sophia Herscu and Leah Borsheim are unable to play this year, as well as Amanda Good, Nhi Nguyen, and Kaci Cessna.

While they will be missed, captain Carolyn Matthews believes that returners like Tina Snodgrass, an aggressive player who dominates in the air, and new players like Baecher, a strong defender skilled both around the disc and downfield, can step up to fill in the void. This versatility stretches all the way down to its youngest rookie, Jean Russell, a rising sophomore at CU who has quick feet, good throws, and the field sense of a more seasoned player.

True to its goal of maximizing contributions from every player, Molly Brown is looking to its new crop of players coming from other club teams to strengthen them with new tactics and strategies. Players like Chastain and Baecher are helping the Colorado women focus on attacking and denying space on offense and defense through aggressive disc movement and well-timed poaches.

At the same time, Molly Brown will continue to benefit from the chemistry that results from having teammates who played together in college at Colorado and Colorado State. Strict O/D lines will be loosened this year as well; with playmakers like Chastain, Snodgrass, Sally Lambert, and captain Lindsey Cross, Molly Brown is stacked with players who are dangerous on both sides of the disc.

Looking to Leesburg and Frisco

For the 2014 season, the leadership is focusing on consistency and aggressiveness on O and D, believing that there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between the two. On aggression, Matthews says, “We want to take shots, and not beat [ourselves] up if there’s a turn – know that you can get it back on D, and that the whole team has your back.”

She has faith in not only the defensive abilities of the team, but also in its ability to perform on O. Early in the season they have primarily concentrated on fundamentals rather than introducing all of their offenses and defenses at once.

“We know that we can get the disc in the end zone and even if you wash away everything else we can still do that,” says Matthews.

Molly Brown will have its first season appearance in Leesburg, VA at Chesapeake Invite this weekend, and they aim to strike a balance of good performance, patience, and constant learning. With no coach, they will have to be communicative and positive; the team knows that this is still the first half of the season.

“We’re going in with the understanding that even if it doesn’t happen right away, we are going to be a very different team come October,” explains Matthews.

The leadership team is concerned with the development process and creating positive conditions for growth, as reflected in Molly Brown’s third primary focus: being a good teammate.

Codifying this value as a season goal and as a tryout criteria was inspired by players’ experiences with the U23 Women’s team from last summer. Matthews was the assistant coach for the gold-medaled squad, which included two Molly players, Claire Chastain and Megan Cousins. The captain says that their approach for the season is derived from the motto of the U23 team: relentlessly positive.

“If you’re a great athlete with a bad attitude, we don’t want you on our team,” declares Matthews.

Chesapeake will be an early indicator of some of the biggest questions that surround this new Molly Brown squad. What will the new faces bring to the field? Can this talented but young team perform consistently at a high level without a coach? While not necessarily a strong indicator of the team that they will become, this weekend will be an exciting first look at the raw materials with which they are building.

Follow Molly Brown’s season debut at Chesapeake Invite this weekend through NexGen, who is streaming their pool play match against Nemesis this Saturday, and on Twitter at @MollyBrownTown.

1 Capitals, the Canadian team that finished 7th at USAU nationals last year, also does not have a coach.

  1. Laura Hamrick
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    Laura Hamrick is a Boulder-based Ultiworld contributor. She played for Pleiades in college at UNC-Chapel Hill and now plays mixed with Dragon Army. She can be reached at laura.renee.hamrick@gmail.com.

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