Katrina Dowd was named Brown's women's lacrosse head coach on June 21.

Katrina Dowd’s Winding Career Path Leads to Brown

“Love the game, and it will love you back” is advice Katrina Dowd commonly gives to players of all ages — a reminder to appreciate and give back to lacrosse.

“Miss the game, and it’ll miss you back,” though, might best describe Dowd’s last few years.

When the pandemic hit, Dowd was in Germany, her wife’s native country. Then, the borders closed.

“We had a decision to make,” Dowd said. “It was 2020. No lacrosse was going to happen. For some leagues, it didn’t happen in 2021. I took nine months off during COVID, a sabbatical to spend time in my wife’s home country.”

One of those leagues was the Ivy League, which Dowd is now a part of as the newly minted head coach at Brown. Dowd always knew the sabbatical would be temporary, even if, at times, the pandemic seemed endless. The sport wasn’t far from her mind, even during the darkest days.

“The [time in Germany] taught me a lot,” Dowd said. “I’m passionate about coaching and teaching the game. I love to play. I love to watch the game. I want to work with players and help them reach new levels, teach them about the game and help them develop their love of the game. I was missing that, and I knew it was something that I was going to get back into.”

In other words, it wasn’t so much of an “if” but “when” Dowd would return. The “when” happened in 2021 when Michelle Tumolo gave one of her best friends a call. Her message? Lacrosse misses you right back.

“My approach was, ‘This game is so lonely without you. It needs you. You provide so much as a coach. Maybe it’s a good time to come back to the States,’” Tumolo said.

To sweeten the pot, Tumolo reminded Dowd that West Point was about 30 minutes from her family in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., In truth, it didn’t take much arm-twisting.

“To be able to coach with your best friend 30 minutes from your hometown is a hard opportunity to pass up,” Dowd said.

“She’s going to elevate Brown. She already has.”

— Michelle Tumolo on Katrina Dowd

The uniqueness of coaching at a military academy with the nation’s future service members also intrigued her. The opportunity was unique in another regard. Dowd coached Tumolo at Syracuse, and, as head coach at Oregon, hired her as an assistant.

“We’ve done it all,” Tumolo said. “It’s not like boss-assistant; it’s really just your staff. You’re all on the same page with one common goal. It was so seamless. It was easy to have her around. She was shaping me. We were two best friends who got to coach incredible young women.”

Besides, playing for Dowd at ‘Cuse gave Tumolo a unique insight into what it’s like to have her as a coach.

“To this day, I can remember her teaching me how to catch a defender behind and really utilizing the crease to our advantage,” Tumolo said. “I remember that practice like it was yesterday. She taught me about a mentality and how to win games.”

Dowd has done her share of winning, and she’s never been all that conventional about it. She has three national titles from her playing days at Northwestern. Her fancy stickwork and ability to come through in clutch situations earned her nicknames “Miss May” and “Trix.”

The most iconic moment came in 2009 when a kneeling Dowd flipped a loose ball over her shoulder and into the net with 0.2 ticks left to send a Final Four game against Penn into overtime. Northwestern won (she assisted Meredith Frank’s game-winner) and went on to claim a fifth NCAA crown in a row.

Internationally, she led the United States to a gold medal during an All-World performance at the world championship in 2013 and later served as a Canadian assistant at the 2017 games. She was also part of the North Carolina staff that coached the 2013 and 2016 teams to NCAA titles.

As a head coach, she guided Oregon to 18 wins in two seasons before returning to UNC and helping the Tar Heels to another Final Four in 2019 as an associate head coach. Dowd wasn’t done pursuing head coaching opportunities, but she said the choice to head back to UNC felt right. Dowd also wasn’t done playing. She suited up for Ireland in 2022.

“My first love of lacrosse was playing,” Dowd said. “I had developed into a coach, teacher of the game and leader after my first love of playing. I like to keep that spirit alive for myself, and I think that benefits the teams I’ve been on, the perspective of training, knowing what your body feels like, what’s fun and aspects of the game that are critical.”

Dowd wouldn’t rule out a return to the field. Whether she sees time in professional or international lacrosse again or not, her legacy-in-the-making will be about far more than what she accomplished between the lines and on the sidelines.

The non-linear path that led her back to head coaching at Brown stems from a commitment to being herself on and off the field. She’s ridden skateboards to practice. She’s unapologetically herself with players and peers.

“We want lacrosse to be for everybody,” Dowd said. “I think the game is beautiful and creative. I’m just out there being and doing what I know to be true to myself. It’s great to hear that people can have different role models. I think it’s amazing when they watch a game and see someone who excites them and makes them want to pick up a stick or watch more lacrosse. Our sport needs that.”

It’s long made her a kindred spirit of Tumolo’s.

“I know, at Army, there are standards they have to follow, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose your personality,” Tumolo said. “We celebrate each player as their individual self. We’re a family, but when you have a family, not everyone is the same, and we talk about that. Katrina and I aren’t even the same.”

For instance, Dowd is more laid back about travel. (Being involved in three international teams and racking up frequent flyer miles at Northwestern will do that.)

But the two gelled at Army, helping the program make history by defeating Navy for the first time in 2022 and playing for a Patriot League crown in 2023. The Black Knights — nationally ranked for the first time in program history — earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament for the first time when their Patriot League title hopes fell short in a championship-game loss to Loyola.

“A lot of players said they came to West Point and wanted to win, but they didn’t expect to be ranked No. 13 and in the NCAA tournament,” Tumolo said. “They know it’s Katrina helping them on the offensive end.”

At least it was. Then, the Brown position opened. Dowd hadn’t returned to the States with a timeline in mind for head coaching again, set on waiting for the right opportunity at the right time. Brown felt like it.

“Being in New England, the college campus … Providence is a unique place,” Dowd said. “It’s very cool. You feel the vibe and energy of this place. That fits me as a coach and person, the kind of team I want to be around and grow. Brown is that fit. Brown is that special place.”

The “exit interview” was bittersweet, but Tumolo couldn’t be happier for her friend.

“There were some tears,” Tumolo said. “You’re best friends, and you get to hang out every day — it’s natural, but now it makes sense. She’s going to elevate Brown. She already has.”


Katrina Dowd helped the U.S. win a world championship in 2013.

Dowd inherits a team that finished 6-8 and was on the outside looking in of the Ivy League tournament. But some key returners have impressed so far this fall. Mia Mascone (23 G, 13 A) and Annie Burton (27 G, 8 A) were second and third, respectively, in scoring last year.

“Mia is an unbelievable leader for us,” Dowd said. “She is competitive. She works hard. Annie is so consistent and a team player. She fits seamlessly into the offense.”

Leah Caputo, who started five games last season, may also play a more significant role.

“Her stick work, her vision, the ideas and creativity she brings to the lacrosse field are very fun to watch,” Dowd said.

That’s high praise coming from “Trix.”

Expect a blue-collar defense, too, led in part by captain Paige Gillen (53 DC), who Dowd describes as “gritty” with an “infectious mindset.”

Mindset has always been key to Dowd’s successes, and it’s a focus of her first year at Brown, too.

“We talk about competitiveness a lot and the energy it requires and the belief it will create,” Dowd said. “We talk about what happens when you believe that everything you do is going to help us prepare and be great. Teams and players are capable of amazing things when they are part of that environment. We are trying to create that environment.”

Dowd’s definition of greatness includes Ivy League titles, national rankings and a signature flare.

“We want to have a style and feel that the lacrosse community knows what Brown women’s lacrosse is,” Brown said.

That style is to be determined, but a Brown degree carries a certain cache, and, at times, pressure to do things in a particular, precise order. But Dowd’s story — of going from head coach to assistant to head coach again, player to coach to player again, U.S. to Europe to the U.S. again — serves as a reminder to release that mental valve.

“Your path and your journey is yours to walk,” Dowd said. “If you love the game, the game will love you back. If you work hard, have passion and enjoy the profession, there is always a path. Your work life is a marathon. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. You have to have the courage to be you.”


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