Batman and Robin. Abbott and Costello. Brower and Sullivan? In the world of Penn women's lacrosse, the latter is the king of dynamic duos.
When Penn coach Karin Brower took over at the helm of the struggling women's lacrosse program in 1999, she knew changes were necessary. The team had compiled a 1-12 record in the previous season, poor even by recent standards. In her search for a new winning tradition at Penn, the first and most important step to rebuilding the program was her choice of an assistant coach.
That choice was Amy Sullivan, who applied for the job fresh out of graduation from the University of Delaware, where she led the Fighting Blue Hens to a 13-5 mark in her senior season.
"I wanted to come to Penn because it was an underdeveloped program not expected to do anything," Sullivan said.
With winning experience and many individual honors -- she was a third-team All-American and first-team All-America East selection -- behind her, Sullivan accepted the challenge to rebuild the once successful program.
"I needed someone who would buy into the program," Brower said. "We needed to rebuild this program together for this to work."
And work it did. In their first two seasons together, Brower and Sullivan have led the group to considerable improvement, finishing 6-8 in 2000 and 8-9 last spring. With two successful seasons under her belt, Sullivan looks to the future.
"We need to stay realistic in our goals," Sullivan said. "Next year our goal should be to finish in the top 15 or 20 in the nation. And from then on we should look for an Ivy [League] championship and eventually a national championship.
"Of course, the first year we just wanted to win one game."
Sullivan attributes much of the success to the "great mix of girls and great balance" on the present team, but their combined skills would be unrealized without the coaching staff.
The partnership has been successful due to the ability of Sullivan and Brower to share duties without `head coach' and `assistant coach' titles. Sullivan's duties include recruiting, planning practices, conditioning, video editing and, of course, coaching.
Sullivan's influence can be most felt on the field and on the recruiting trail.
"We look for girls with the basics -- speed and strength," Sullivan said. "But we also look for the mental characteristics in girls such as motivation, hard work and believing in what we want to accomplish here."
And once settled at Penn, incoming freshmen learn what Sullivan is really about.
"I am very vocal. It's hard to respond to coaches who don't talk," Sullivan said. "How are you supposed to know if you are doing things right? I guess that I'm a bit sarcastic, too."
And while Brower agrees with Sullivan's self-psychoanalysis, she sees Sullivan's little tendencies on the field as her greatest strength.
"As the season rolls on, some players get more playing time than others," Brower said. "Not only does she work primarily with the attack, but Amy is always there working with the players who don't always get the most playing time. She's out there helping them, reminding them that they too are an integral part of this team."
Sullivan's playing ability, knowledge of the game and dedication to the program are all evident. Her true value to the program, however, is in her "enthusiasm," as Brower puts it.
"I love teaching, seeing the improvement of everybody from day to day and working with these girls because it is a team," Sullivan said. "There is no arrogance, and being a High School All-American doesn't matter because we are all in this together.
"The best feeling is when you have been working on something for days, or even weeks, and then all of a sudden the team pulls it off in a game. That is what is so gratifying."
That gratification will be multiplied if all the hard work continues to pay off, and the women's lacrosse team completes its turnaround and lands a spot in the national spotlight.Comments powered by Disqus
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