Not every player can come in and play right away at the college level, but Marisa Brown was one of those rare players.
The talented midfielder was able to make an immediate impact for the Wisconsin women’s soccer team in her freshman campaign.
“Freshman [year] it is fun, you don’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “I was really nervous all the time. It wasn’t too much pressure because nobody knew what to expect from you, so you just came in and do your thing.”
And she did just that, jumping into the starting lineup for all 24 matches and earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
“As a freshman she was already making others around her look good,” head coach Dean Duerst said. “She is savvy as a soccer player and smooth. She just has an idea of how to play the game. When you insert a freshman into that, very similar to maybe a couple of freshmen we have now, they’re almost playing like veterans versus rookies.”
Long before she was on the pitch for Wisconsin, Brown was honing her gymnastic skills in an Evanston, Ill., gym. If not for the guidance of an older sister, Brown might not be where she is today.
“My sister [started me in soccer], I was into gymnastics and other sports,” the junior midfielder said. “My sister played [soccer], and I basically did what my sister did when I was younger.”
As Brown grew up and it became evident she would play college soccer, she again relied on those around her for guidance.
“I heard [UW] was a good school, and I liked a lot of things about it,” she said. “I also know a lot of people from Evanston that have come here, and everyone says that they love it.”
Even after leaving Evanston, she is still getting help from back home. That help is coming from fellow Evanston native and high school teammate Stacy Omundson, a defender for the Badgers.
“[Playing with Stacy] is awesome,” Brown said. “I know how she plays and she knows how I play, so I would definitely say that we connect well together. I’ve played with her since I don’t know — forever.”
Through the years playing with Omundson, Brown has developed the skills that make her the player she is now.
“Technically, she is one of the best players in the conference I think,” Duerst said. “She just has such a great ability to dribble, ability to move with the ball. There is a thing in soccer, which is the weight of the pass and the quality of the pass, and the ability for her to bend passes. When she is playing to other people, she is giving them not only a good pass, but putting them in other positions.”
Brown came in possessing many of the skills that make her a successful player today, but she still had much to learn in terms of the nuances of the game. Through playing and practicing and training, she has improved and refined her game to become the player she is.
“[Marisa] has gotten better each year,” Duerst said. “She had to learn that through frustration you can still get satisfaction. There were moments when she was up and down a little bit in her play. She doubted her confidence, and yet she stuck with it. Now [in her] junior year what she really is doing is, I think she is understanding the speed of the game and how she can have more of an impact on it. [She is understanding] how she can become more of an offensive player, how she can be in the right spaces along with her teammates.”
The growth of the team has followed Brown’s growth throughout the season. The Badgers are now playing their best soccer of the season as they head down the stretch to the conference tournament.
“I think we have a lot more confidence, especially beating Michigan,” Brown said. “They were a team we never beat in the two years I have been here. Now it is like we know we can beat teams from the beginning [of conference play] and have more confidence going into the tournament.”
With her increased confidence and improved play, the sky is the limit for Marisa Brown. It seems the best move Brown can make is to continue to heed the advice of others.
It has certainly worked for her so far.