It was a novel idea, and not one that Sarah Brown was particularly fired up about in the beginning.

In high school the Boulder native was an unstoppable scorer, posting over 200 goals in three seasons with Boulder Valley's co-op girls lacrosse team at Centaurus. The Warriors reached the state semifinals in each of those seasons with Brown, from Boulder High, leading the charge.

When she signed with the brand new program at her hometown university, it was easy to assume Brown would continue honing her natural scoring punch with the Colorado Buffaloes. Instead head coach Ann Elliott moved Brown to defense after an injury-plagued freshman season.

Like most of the buttons Elliott has pushed while quickly building the Buffs into a national power, it proved to be a shrewd move. As CU prepares for the final weekend of the regular season, it is not a stretch to say Brown gives the ninth-ranked Buffs one of the most athletic and dynamic defenders in the nation.

"At the Division I level you've got to be able to stop people, and you need defenders that can make plays and have the athleticism to go up against top attackers, and at the same time have the speed and confidence to transition the ball on to our attack and be a threat there," Elliott said. "She's smart and physically she can play people one-on-one, and then in transition can be a threat. That's something that we needed consistently on defense."


Advertisement

Brown's collegiate career didn't begin the way hometown heroes ever envision, as a back injury limited her to just one goal in two games in 2015. It was Brown's second significant back injury in less than three years, and while Elliott maintained the move to defense was not inspired by Brown's back woes, CU's junior defender noted the torque involved in continuing to launch shots as she did in her life as a midfielder proved to be a frustrating hurdle during her recovery.

"After the injury, I just really wanted to play," Brown said. "As any injured player right now could tell you, it's painful to just watch when you can't do anything. The most I could do was just flex my stomach muscles as exercise. (Defense) was a little strange at first. I do miss it every once in a while, but I'm scoring goals now on defense.

"I thought maybe they would move me back but they never did. But honestly, I'm glad. I feel like when I can focus on one thing I'm better at it."

Brown had the look of a natural defender during her first season in the role last year, earning first team all-conference honors in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and getting named to the second team of the All-West/Midwest Region by the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association.

After recovering from the back issues, Brown tallied six assists while starting all 18 games a year ago. She has started all 15 games this year heading into this weekend's dates at St. Mary's and Cal, posting three goals and an assist while often marking the opposition's top scorer. Brown and the Buffs' defensive unit ranks second in the nation in scoring defense at 6.43 goals per game.

"I wanted to prove that I could come back," Brown said. "This year has been unbelievable. It's been great to have so many friends and family out at the games. Looking at other schools when I was in high school, and then hurting my back and having schools drop me, everything happens for a reason. I'm glad to see it all come full circle."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07