Laura Mayer

Captain Poses an Offensive and Defensive Threat

Running fast handling a soccer ball and booting if into the net have always come easily for Laura Mayer, one of the Harvard women's soccer learns three captains. How ever, finding a team to play on, playing the position she would like and getting the recognition she deserves, have not.

The story of Mayer's soccer career is in many ways typical of the old era of female Harvard soccer players, the ones who started just before the sport became so popular and organized.

Until she came to Harvard four years ago, the Leverett House resident had never played for a school affiliated team. The only organized soccer in Atlanta. Mayer's hometown, was the YMCA league which Mayec and a group of her friends joined when they were nine. The situation was far from ideal; the coaches were usually fathers of the players, and everyone was restricted to playing only one half.

A lack of real competition was not the only obstacle that Mayer faced. Her father a former German professional soccer player himself, did not want his daughter playing.

"He didn't think it was a proper sport for a girl In Europe it's a street sport for boys." Mayer explains. "But after a year or two, he resigned himself to it and even thought it was nice."

Mayer thought so too, and continued to play in the YMCA league for the next nine years. Besides being one of the league's foremost right forward wings, she ran track and played basketball for her high school In fact. Mayer considered attending UVA and playing for its nationally acclaimed basketball squad. But once she arrived at Harvard, Mayer put her high tops away for good.

Her freshman year, Mayer found her favorite position, right forward wing occupied by the very talented and more experienced Catherine Ferrante. So, Mayer began playing wing fullback, a spot she had only placed once before. Yet, despite her lack of experience she did very well in the backfield.

"Laura is very versatile," soccer coach Bob Scalise says. "Her speed enables her to beat people when she's playing offense, and to cover almost anyone on defense."

Throughout her four years here, Scalise has made the most of Mayer's versatility, moving her from attack to defense and back again when the need arises. Last year Mayer filled in when fullback Ellen Jakovic was injured, and this year she moved back to offense when it became apparent that the team needed more offensive punch.

In the recent NCAA tournament, Mayer finally found herself playing right wing forward for the first time in four years. She obviously hadn't lost her touch, scoring the Crimson's lone goal in its 2-1 loss to St. Louis, last Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals--only the fifth goal scored against St. Louis all season. In spite of all the switching around this fall, Mayer is second on the squad in scoring with 17 goals, and second in shooting and assists as well.

"He didn't think it was a proper sport for a girl. In Europe it's a street sport for boys." Mayer explains. "But after a year or two, he resigned himself to it and even thought it was nice."

Mayer thought so too, and continued to play in the YMCA league for the next nine years. Besides being one of the league's foremost right forward wings, she ran track and played basketball for her high school. In face, Mayer considered attending UVA and playing for its nationally acclaimed basketball squad. But once she arrived at Harvard. Mayer put her high tops away for good.

Her freshman year, Mayer found her favorite position, right forward wing occupied by the very talented and more experienced Catherine Ferrante. So, Mayer began playing wing fullback, a spot she had only placed once before. Yet, despite her lack of experience she did very well in the backfield.

"Laura is very versatile." soccer coach Bob Scalise says. "Her speed enables her to bear people when she's playing offense, and to cover almost anyone on defense."

Throughout her four years her. Scalise her made the most of Mayer's versatility, moving her form attack to defense and back again when the need arises. Last year Mayer filled in when fullback Ellen Jakovic was injured, and this year she moved back to offense when it became apparent that the team needed more offensive punch.

In the recent NCAA tournament, Mayer finally found herself playing right wing forward for the first time in four years. She obviously hadn't lost her touch, scoring the Crimson's lone goal in its 2-1 loss to St. Louis, last Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals--only the fifth goal scored against St. Louis all season. In spite of all the switching around this fall, Mayer is second on the squad in scoring with 17 goals, and second in shooting and assists as well.

Despite her contributions to the team, Mayer has never earned the post-season honors that some of her teammates have. Her freshman year, 10 starters and a substitute were named to the Alt-Lvy squad, but Mayer was overlooked. During the past two years, Alt-Lvy selections have not included Mayer. either.

The Laid-back Southerner takes in all in stride. "After my freshman year, I learned not to expect anything. Awards are what other people perceive of your performance, but what's important is how you think you've done."

When the frost and show arrive, Mayer does not put away the soccer cleats, she just moves inside and plays indoor soccer with some of her teammates. Then in the spring she plays club soccer in Wellesley with players and alumnae from nearby colleges. This spring however she is considering playing softball.

The soccer team that Mayer captains is very different from the one she joined when she arrived here four years ago. In 1979 the Harvard women's soccer team was in its second years varsity and undergoing growing pains. As a result, the style of play and the level of competition were very different from the way they are today.

"There were some girls who had some skills, but mostly we got into shape and learned to kick the ball." Mayer remembers. "We just out-hustled our opponents. We didn't use much skill or many tactics,"

The big change came last year when a group of players arrived who had played organized soccer under real coaches and in conjunction with their schools. These new players were not just good athletes who could kick the ball, they were also skilled soccer players.

"When the freshmen arrived last year, it allowed the whole team to play with more fine case." Mayer says. "We developed a style that allows us to use short passes as well as the long ball."

This combination of old style hustle and new finesse led to last year's incredible success when the boters won the Lvy Champion ship. But this year the team just wasn't able to live up to everyone's expectations--those of the funs, the coach and even the players themselves. The squad ended up with a 6-5-2 record, the worst so far in its short history.

"We started the season out with a loss and then a lie. That's a hard way to start." Mayer says. "I think that there was a fear that we wouldn't be as good and we didn't play with much confidence."

Looking over her four-year Harvard career, the game which stands out most in her mind is the Eastern Championship Final her freshman year, when Harvard tied Cortland State for the title. "It was icy, snowy, dark and we went into triple overtime." Mayer recalled with a shudder. "It was so emotional and it hurt so much to play. It taught you to appreciate good conditions and trying hard."

Reflecting back on that game, Mayer says thoughtfully, "Maybe the last two years have been too easy."