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Avon native Kia McNeill is unanimous pick as Ivy League Coach of the Year

Brown head coach Kia McNeill, center with trophy, celebrates with her Bruins’ team after winning the Ivy League championship. McNeill was named Ivy League coach of the year Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Brown University Sports Information)

Avon High graduate Kia McNeill, the head coach of the Brown University women’s soccer team, was unanimously named the Ivy League Coach of the Year, the league announced Wednesday.

McNeill earned Coach of the Year honors for the first time in her fourth year at Brown. McNeill led the Bears to its first Ivy League title since 1994. Her squad posted a program-record for wins in a season (14) and finished 14-1-2 overall with a 6-0-1 mark in league play. The Bears were ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation during the season.

“It’s a huge honor to be coach of the year of such an incredible conference,” McNeill said on Twitter. “Every head coach knows an award like this is the reflection of the whole (coaching) staff. (It) can’t be done with the day-in and day-out support, hard work and loyalty of my amazing assistants.”

No. 17 Brown will play in opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday when the Bears host four-time MAAC champion Monmouth at 12:30 p.m. at Stevenson-Pincince Field.The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.

Brown’s Brittany Raphino was named Ivy League rookie of the year, tallying a team-leading 19 points on eight goals and three assists. Her season-high three goals helped the Bears defeat Fairfield 5-0 on Sept. 18 and she added a goal in a pivotal 4-2 Ivy League win over Harvard on Oct. 19. Raphino is a 5-foot-10 freshman forward from Randolph, Mass.

Harvard junior forward Murphy Agnew earned Offensive Player of the Year laurels while Yale senior defender Aerial Chavarin grabbed Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Brown had four players on the All-Ivy first team with Raphino, junior back Sydney Cummings (Millstone Township, N.J.), senior midfielder Abby Carchio (Lakeville, Mass.) and junior goalie Kayla Thompson (Austin, Texas).

Brown has tallied an 11-0 record at home in 2019 with the 11 victories marking a program record for home wins in a season. The Bears have outscored opponents 23-2 in those contests. Dating back to the 2018 season, the Bears sport a 14-0 record in their last 14 home matches, outscoring opponents 35-3 during that stretch. The win streak matches the program record set in 1976-78.

The championship was the 13th Ivy League title in school history, tying Harvard for the most in league history. It is their first league title since 1994. Brown is prepared to make their seventh appearance all-time in the NCAA tournament and first appearance since 1994.

McNeill graduated from Avon in 2004. She was the state player of the year in 2003 and a two-time NSCAA high school All American. She helped Avon win three straight Class M championships. She also lettered in basketball and track.

In college, she played at Boston College. She scored 24 goals in her first three seasons before becoming a defender as a senior due to injuries.

She played four years of pro soccer – three years with Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) before it folded following the 2011 season. McNeill anchored the back line in Philadelphia, helping the Independence win the league championship in 2011. She played 21 games with the Boston Breakers of the NWSL in 2013 before retiring.

An assistant coach at Northeastern in the 2014 and 2015 seasons and at Boston College in 2009 and the 2011-13 seasons, McNeill helped those two programs make five NCAA tournament appearances in six seasons, including an Elite Eight and three Sweet 16 appearances at BC.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in human development from Boston College in 2008 and an MBA in general management from BC in 2015.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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