When the ball fell to junior midfielder Brianna Pagan in the eighty-eighth minute of a 1-1 tie with conference rival Fontbonne, more than just the game was at stake. A win would leave Webster undefeated in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) play, and hand its closest competitor their first loss in conference competition.
With the possibility of overtime looming, Pagan settled the ball, pushed past two defenders and buried it in the back of the net, scoring what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
The moment may have been vital to Webster’s season, but Pagan said the shot’s outcome was never in doubt.
“The second I touched it, I just knew I was scoring,” Pagan said. “Sometimes you get that feeling inside, and you just know. After the adrenaline rush, I was just thinking about keeping the ball out of our box and keeping our lead.”
Head Coach Luigi Scire said he shared Pagan’s certainty, but attributes it to more than just a single moment of magic.
“Not only did she know, but we all knew,” Scire said. “When ‘B’ gets the ball at the top of the defense in that part of the field, you know two things are going to happen: For one, she’s going to beat her marker, and two, she’s going to score.”
Long before Pagan ever scored a goal at Webster, it was that same dedication to preparedness that drew Scire’s eye when recruiting her.
A week after Pagan introduced herself while visiting Webster during her junior year of high school, Scire made an impromptu trip to one of her games to see her in action. What he saw impressed him immediately.
“I don’t think she knew I was there,” Scire said. “Sometimes I just like to go and see for myself how a player approaches the game when they don’t know anyone is watching. It was so evident, from the way she warmed up for the game, to the way she interacted with her teammates, to how seriously she took the game itself, that she was a good fit for our program and our system.”
Pagan, a math and computer science major, said she believes her analytical nature informs the way she approaches the game and is one of her biggest assets on the field.
“I definitely think it translates,” Pagan said. “I’m constantly analyzing, trying to think about who this person is going to pass to, and what will happen if I step here, and when you start thinking about the game as a big chain reaction, it all kind of unlocks itself.”
Pagan said she is one of the less vocal players in the locker room; she likes to immerse herself in thoughts about strategy, and generally stays quiet in the lead-up to a game.
However, Scire said that has not stopped her from flourishing as a leader in her role as one of the team’s captains.
“Every team has vocal leaders, but you also need leaders like ‘B’ who go on the field and show you,” Scire said. “She doesn’t yell before games, and she doesn’t communicate as much as some of the others in the locker room, but when we step out on the field, there is no doubt she’s a leader. She gives everyone on the team an example to follow, and even if she’s quiet, she plays big and loud.”
With Pagan among the key contributors, the Gorloks played their way to a 9-0 conference record this season. They hold the first seed in the upcoming SLIAC conference tournament and the NCAA tournament awaits.
A conference title and tournament berth this season would be another milestone in Pagan’s already successful Webster career the significance of which is not lost on Scire.
“I’ve been with this program for 18 years, from day one,” Scire said. “She is the only player we’ve ever had who has been all-region in each of her freshman and sophomore seasons, and this year she’s so much better.”
Despite her achievements as an individual, Pagan said she is focused exclusively on the tournaments ahead, and prefers team success over accolades and statistics. Scire said quality is just another piece of what defines her as a player.
“I don’t necessarily tell her, ‘After four years here, I think you could be one of the best players we’ve ever had.’ She’s really self-motivated and doesn’t need to hear that from me, so we don’t talk about that. I think once she’s finished and ready to walk away from here, we’ll all look back on the career she’s had here and know it was special,” Scire said. “For now, she’ll tell you she’s just barely scratched the surface of how good she can be. The scary part is, I think she’s right.”