Morgan Brian

Morgan Brian: Soccer Standout, Kinesiology Major

The Curry School has been able to claim some outstanding male student athletes who have garnered national attention, but rarely have we been able to claim a female athlete of the caliber of Morgan Brian.


The 2014 Soccer American’s Player of the Year, Morgan Brian is a fourth-year student in our kinesiology program — a major she believes has made her more knowledgeable about her own sports injuries and those of her teammates and friends.

“It does not change the way I do things on the field, but more off of the field,” she said. “Taking care of my body and making sure my muscles recover is something that I have gotten better at with the help of being a kinesiology major.”

Taking care of my body and making sure my muscles recover is something that I have gotten better at with the help of being a kinesiology major.

Brian, a senior midfielder, has a list of accolades a mile long on the team roster. Topping the list for the 2013 season, she is the first U.Va. woman ever to win the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s most prestigious individual award.

Just recently, an ESPN-W blog post labeled Brian “America’s next big soccer star,” largely because she has already earned 14 appearances with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the international level. She was first called up to the national team just weeks after the end of her second year at U.Va.

Morgan BrianThis fall she missed five U.Va. games playing for the U.S. in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the World Cup qualifying tournament. In her qualifying debut, she scored her third international goal, helping her team defeat Haiti 6-0.

“Playing for your country at this level is something you never take for granted,” Brian was quoted as saying in The Virginian-Pilot. “Whether I play a minute or start or I don’t play at all, I’m happy to be here and play the role I need to play.”

In the ESPN article, U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd said, “[Morgan is] tiny, but she can hold her own out there. She’s simple. She’s confident on the ball. She can play long passes, she can play short passes. She’s got a lot going for her.”

Brian returned to Charlottesville in time to score two goals on Senior Night, November 1, against the University of Pittsburg. It marked the seventh career multi-goal game for Brian and her second this season.

“Morgan is playing some of the best soccer of her career right now,” said head coach Swanson after the game. “She was very good at the national team camps and in the qualifiers. We have a very motivated and in-form Morgan Brian.”

In a brief interview on the eve of the ACC tournament last week, we asked Brian about her choices to come to the University of Virginia and to major in kinesiology. She said she was attracted to U.Va. by its ideal mix of academics, athletics, and social scene—not that she has had much time for a social life.

“The campus is beautiful, and I love Charlottesville,” she said. “The coaching staff here for soccer is the best in the country, along with the teachers.”

The coaching staff here for soccer is the best in the country, along with the teachers.

Even though she grew up wanting to be a doctor, years of soccer play convinced her that kinesiology was the right college major.

“It allows me to get a degree in an area I want to pursue later in life,” she said. “I have always been extremely interested in sports medicine and the way the body works in athletics.”

Brian’s choice of an academically rigorous major at a selective public university places even more pressure on her packed schedule. Clearly, time management is another skill at which she excels.

“It is a lot to balance between practice, games, tests, traveling, etcetera,” she explained. “If I don’t use all of the down time I have to study or use my time wisely, then it becomes more stressful than it already is.”

As the U.S. was preparing to open the World Cup qualifying tournament in early October, Brian told The Virginian-Pilot, “You’re always tired, and you don’t want to do (classwork) sometimes” on the road, “but at the end of the day, you want to graduate from college and get good grades and excel in the classroom.”

Morgan BrianShe appreciates that her U.Va. professors have been willing to accommodate her travel schedule. “As long as I get the work done while I’m here and am diligent about it, they’re willing to work with me,” she said.

Brian must be doing fine in her classes because she made the 2014 ACC Academic Honor Roll. She’s also on this fall’s All-ACC first team and the ACC All-Tournament team for her performance on the field.

Her U.Va. team suffered a 1-0 loss to second-ranked Florida State in the ACC Tournament final but received a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, which opens November 14.

Regardless of what happens this month, in December Brian plans to enter the professional league draft.

“Hopefully, I will get drafted to a NWSL pro league team in January. I also hope to be a part of the United States Women’s National Team that will compete in the World Cup next summer in Canada,” she said.

Ultimately, she wants to play soccer for as long as possible.  Then, she expects to go back to school  and build on her kinesiology degree, maybe in a physician assistant program.

Follow up: Brian was named US Young Female Athlete of 2014 on December 3. The Virginia women’s soccer team finished the 2014 season as the NCAA runner-up, falling to Florida State 1-0 in the Women’s College Cup finals on December 7.

Photos by Matt Riley, U.Va. Dept. of Athletics