In the first four years of her coaching career, Keely McDonald saw what it takes to build a women's lacrosse team into a national powerhouse.

In the first four years of her coaching career, Keely McDonald saw what it takes to build a women's lacrosse team into a national powerhouse.

McDonald, a Granville native and 1996 graduate of Columbus School for Girls, was an assistant to Kelly Amonte Hiller at Northwestern from 2000-03, a period during which the Wildcats went from being a club team to Division I national champions. In fact, this season they won their fourth title in a row.

McDonald was an assistant to Chris Sailer at Princeton in 2004 as the Tigers, the top-ranked team the entire season, finished 19-1 after losing to Virginia 10-4 in the national championship game.

Having completed her fourth season as coach at Brown, McDonald is eager to lead the Bears to that kind of success. Last year's team finished 6-10, making McDonald's record at Brown 19-44.

"Every kid on this team is on a mission," she said. "When they came to Brown, they all sat in my office and heard the same spiel. I told each one of them up front (that) we're building our team to be one of the best programs in the country. They're all on the same page and committed to that mission."

There were signs of progress last season as the Bears beat 20th-ranked Dartmouth 8-5 on March 29, part of a three-game winning streak. It was Brown's first win over Dartmouth since McDonald's freshman year of 1997.

Brown also played well Feb. 28 in a 12-8 loss to North Carolina, which went on to finish 13-7 and ranked ninth. North Carolina beat Brown 17-5 a year earlier.

"The program is going in a great direction," said Nancy Baker, a 2007 graduate of Upper Arlington who is on the team along with fellow 2007 UA graduate Tori Conway. "We've got all of these amazing players in camp. Everyone wants to get back and win more games. We're all very determined and looking to get back to the top of the Ivy League.

"(McDonald is) a really welcoming coach. When I came here for my visit, all the girls had amazing things to say about her. You can just tell she loves every minute of coaching. She's not like an overseer of the program. She's very encouraging and that's a great quality to have."

McDonald was a starter in the midfield and on the attack from 1997-2000 and totaled 66 goals and 20 assists during her career. She was second-team all-Ivy League as a senior.

When the contract of one of her former coaches, Theresa Ingram, was not renewed at the end of the 2004 season, McDonald jumped at the chance to return to Brown, which is in Providence, R.I.

"It was crazy," McDonald said. "When I first got here, there was mail all the way up to the ceiling. I was scrambling to find recruits. I just got on the phone and started calling.

"I spent the first two months just starting to change our mission. My freshman year, we were ranked seventh in the country and I wanted us to get back there."

Twelve states -- ranging from Connecticut to Colorado -- had representatives on last season's roster. McDonald makes it a point to travel back to Ohio to watch the state championship games every year.

"Most of the women's lacrosse teams are made up of East Coast players," Baker said. "(McDonald) is really recruiting Midwest girls. She loves kids from Ohio and places where lacrosse is up and coming because she knows we will have a great attitude and work ethic."

"The talent of central Ohio lacrosse has improved tremendously from when I played," McDonald said. "When I started, there were maybe 15 teams in Columbus and Cincinnati combined. There are a ton of new teams now and the talent is more spread out than it used to be."

Another thing McDonald must overcome is the fact that the Ivy League prohibits scholarships for athletics. But that didn't deter Baker.

"She really didn't have to do much convincing," Baker said. "As soon as I visited, I fell in love with the place."

"It takes a lot of extra work to find players who have the right work ethic, athletic and academic skills to play in the Ivy League," McDonald said. "You're not getting players who are on a team just to pay for college; you're getting athletes who are playing a sport because they love it."

That was what drew McDonald to Providence.

"I was beginning recruited by Ohio State at the time and that was pretty exciting for me," said McDonald, who played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse at CSG. "But when I got a call from the Brown coach, they didn't have to sell their program too much. Obviously, an Ivy League education was a tremendous factor, plus you get to play in one of the oldest, most competitive leagues. For me, it was like a dream come true. The day I got my acceptance letter from Brown was one of the best days of my life."