Not Done Yet
Sept. 9, 2010
Originally printed Sept. 5, 2010 in the First and Goal football game program
By Sarah Fetters,
Four months ago her competitive fire and clutch performances helped the East Carolina softball team claim its first-ever Conference USA regular season and championship titles and a second trip to the NCAA Tournament in the past three years. This fall, Marina Gusman-Brown hopes to have the same type of impact for a different Pirate squad as she trades in her glove and bat for a pair of knee pads and a spot on the Pirate volleyball team.
The starting left fielder since transferring to ECU from Eastern Arizona Community College in the fall of 2008, Gusman-Brown had one season of collegiate eligibility remaining as all student-athletes are given five years of competition by the NCAA.
"I had one semester of school left and I didn't want to sit around doing nothing," Gusman-Brown, who is set to graduate in December, said. "And I love volleyball. It's one of my favorite sports."
The fit with the volleyball program was nearly perfect as second-year head coach Pati Rolf was looking to add an experienced senior from another sport to her 2010 roster that features six freshmen as part of an eight-newcomer group. Gusman-Brown also had volleyball experience, earning three varsity letters in high school and playing her second year at EACC.
"I had a chance to spend some time with the softball program last spring," Rolf said. "One thing about Marina is that she's a very competitive person. For us as a volleyball program, we're trying to elevate the urgency and competitive nature of our players. Marina brings that personality, which was the single-most important factor for me."
Gusman-Brown's highly successful 2010 softball season certainly increased Rolf 's interest. Gusman Brown was a first-team All-Mideast Region and All-Conference USA selection while leading the Pirates in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.337), runs scored (38), runs batted in (40), home runs (13) and stolen bases (30). The 13 long balls were the fifth most in a single season in ECU history.
"Marina's athleticism played well in our program," head softball coach Tracey Kee said. "Her power and speed were very instrumental to our success. She's also a fierce competitor. I think anytime you can get competitive kids on the field or court it's going to bode well for the whole team."
"Being competitive is fun for Marina and sometimes people think of them as two separate entities," Rolf added. "When she asked me what her job would be for our team, I said it was going to be helping to formulate a competitive, winning culture with a great spirit."
The competitor in Gusman-Brown relishes performing in key situations, as evidenced by her seven game-winning RBI last spring. For instance, her game-tying two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the March 27series opener against Marshall put the Pirates in position to claim a 4-3 victory in nine innings and start the team on its championship run. Later, during the regular season title clinching series sweep at Memphis May 8-9, she drove in the winning run in all three contests.
Her most dramatic moment was hitting her 13th and final home run of the season. With the score tied 0-0 in the bottom of the sixth at host Texas during the NCAA Tournament, Gusman-Brown hit a solo homer to account for the game's only run which lifted the Pirates into the Austin Regional Championship game.
"It felt like Cloud nine," Gusman-Brown said with a smile crossing her face and her mind going back to that long ball against the 12th-ranked and No. 7 national seeded Longhorns.
"To go out like that was incredible. Nothing could be better than that, especially knocking out Texas. That was unreal."
Since finishing her ECU softball career, Gusman-Brown has made a smooth transition to the volleyball court this fall.
"Her first week of preseason was actually much better than I thought it would be," Rolf said. "Because she's competitive, she wants to play. She will be playing, at least three rotations and maybe six. To be honest with you, it's amazing that she's starting for us because she has been out of the sport for so long."
Gusman-Brown realizes her skills and physical training still have some transitioning to do to be fully switched over to volleyball, but she knows what she wants out of this season.
"My goal for the season is to be in that starting six," she said. "But most of all, I want to bring positive energy, intensity, the desire to win and to be there for my teammates and encourage them in whatever way I can."
While there is not another program-lifting home run in Gusman-Brown's immediate future, her ability to inspire a freshman class of volleyball players could extend her legacy at ECU to a second Pirate team.