During the Harvard women's soccer team's dual match against the University of Massachusetts a month ago, Crimson coach Bob Scalise looked a little anxious when Minuteman halfback Patricia Mattoon cleared the ball from her zone. As the UMass bench began to cheer for their teammate shouting her nickname, "Toona-Toona-Toona," Scalise turned to his assistant coach and said, "I should make Sara Fischer cover that halfback so we'd have "Toona-Fisch."
Although the Minuteman went on to win that game, 5-4, in overtime the Crimson booters had the last laugh at the Eastern tournament.
During the warm-ups before the Crimson's game against UMass in the semifinals Saturday, Scalise teased the booters about getting their uniforms muddy. When some of the players complained jokingly that it wasn't fair that he got to stay clean, Scalise told them, "If we win this game I'll get myself muddier than all of you."
Scalise's laundry bill will be very high this month since Harvard became the first team in two years to shut out the Minutemen, and Scalise kept his promise by slide tackling into the largest mud puddle in the field.
Harvard continued into the finals the next day where it drew a tie with Cortland State after 120 minutes of play to share the Eastern title.
The success of the women booters is partially due to Scalise's ability to keep his sense of humor even during tense moments and the entire team's attitude which is to go out and play your hardest but have a good time while doing it.
"We do things we enjoy doing and need to do to win, "Scalise said.
And while some might argue that it's easy to have fun when you're winning, Scalise's antics predate the team's "glory days."
Three years ago when the squad was moving from a club sport to a varsity level II sport, there was some question as to whether Scalise should be coaching a women's sport since he was of the opposite sex. During one of the last practices that fall the players were surprised to find a women with long blond braids, a corduroy skirt and ankle socks waiting for them in place of Scalise on the field. Closer observation showed however, that the legs were those of an All-American lacrosse player.
While this year's team means business on the field, they manage to fool around off it. Before the Dartmouth game, the team had a "cripple breakfast party", to which the players came dressed in bandages. Tricia Welch showed up with her entire head bandaged, which greatly impeded her ability to eat the scrambled eggs, while Julie Brynteson arrived with two compression pads positioned so that the laughter led to no end. Kerry Bryan arrived with a blond, curly wig and a sweatshirt that had "Coach Bob" written on the front and Stefi Baum donned a black wig and painted on a mustache to imitate assistant coach Bob Friedman. Unfortunately for the tri-captain, the paint didn't come off completely and she walked around with a five o'clock shadow for a few days.
But, the Crimson booters' ability to have fun does not take away from their game. It's just that when they send the ball rolling, it rolls with laughter.