Penn State offered the athletic scholarship. Harvard offered nothing.
Penn State offered the perennially winning lacrosse squad. Harvard offered the perennially losing lacrosse squad.
Penn State offered the top-notch women's athletic program. Harvard's women's athletic program was just beginning.
For Maureen Finn, the choice was all too obvious.
Now, four years since she signed on the dotted line, the Pennsylvania native insists she has no regrets. No one--not even Penn State--Finn says, could have offered what Harvard has.
"There's so much you go through at Harvard," she says. "I didn't come just to play lacrosse. I came for Harvard and the academics."
But more importantly, possibly no one could have offered to Harvard what Maureen Finn has.
It's not just that she's emerged as one of Harvard's top all-time athletes. Nor is it the national prominence she helped bring to the Crimson's women's athletic program.
"What it is," Harvard women's lacrosse Coach Carole Kleinfelder says, "is that Mo has just given so much of herself. She's grown with Harvard...and Harvard's grown with her."
Finn, or Mo as she's affectionately known by her teammates and friends, has left her mark not only on the women's lacrosse team but also on the field hockey squad. Furthermore, she's currently part of a pretty special group, one that includes five seniors--Francesca DenHartog, Jennifer White, Kate Martin, Jeanne Piersiak and herself--that together comprise what many feel is the finest quintet ever to grace the Harvard lacrosse fields.
And at the same time, many of those people also feel Finn might just be the finest of the group. Although the headlines and the glory have often gone to others, Finn's performance continues to speak for itself. Last year, the Malvern, Penn., native captured the Ivy League scoring championship, a little she's running away with this year. As a result, she already holds several Harvard lacrosse records and seems certain to break a few more before it's all over.
But what separates the two-time All-Ivy selection and the consensus All-American from the others is her consistent play. "Others might be a bit more flashy," Kleinfelder says, "but I doubt there's anyone as consistent as Mo."
Consistency, however, has never been too big a problem for Finn. And for that matter, neither has winning.
After picking up the game in seventh grade, Finn quickly matured into one of the top players in Philadelphia--the nation's premier lacrosse breeding ground. She led her high school squad to three straight league championships. In her spare time, she managed to captain the school's field hockey and basketball teams to a few titles as well.
At Harvard, the Kirkland House resident picked up where she had left off in high school--turning both the Crimson's field hockey and lacrosse squads into national powerhouses. She admits, though, she's had help from the four other seniors.
"It's easy to do well when you play on such a talented team," Finn said. And this group is just the most talented, hard-working I've ever seen."
Now, several years since that talented quintet first assembled on the lacrosse fields, Finn is able to look back--and smile. "We've grown so much together," says Finn, who by her own admission is better at lacrosse than field hockey (even though she co-captained the Crimson stick squad the past two years).
But Finn hasn't devoted all her energies to bringing fame and fortune to the lacrosse squad. Off the field, she's been working just as eagerly to support the entire women's athletic program. A member of the founding committee of the Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women's Athletics, which provides financial support for women's sports, Finn continues to serve as a member of the Foundation.
And while Finn has participated in the lacrosse squad's steady climb toward prominence, there's still one thing she hasn't seen--that first-ever national championship.
The last three years, the squad has finished seventh, fourth and sixth, respectively, in the nation. And except for that fourth place finish her sophomore year, Finn has seen it all from the sidelines.
Her freshman year, the Economics major suffered a thigh injury that kept her out of the entire NCAA tourney. Then, after her best year ever last year. Finn suffered the same thigh injury. So for the second time in three years, the Crimson's top performer's only contribution was as a cheerleader.
"Last year was probably the most disappointing thing," Finn says. "It was so hard to watch from the sidelines."
It was equally hard for Kleinfelder to have her key player on the bench. "Maureen really pulled through for us in some key games last year," Kleinfelder says. "It became very apparent when she wasn't in there."
This year--her final opportunity to win that vaunted national title--Finn vows she'll be in there. And that might be the key to Harvard's best finish ever. "I certainly hope she's there down the road," fellow All-American Francesca DenHartog says. "She definitely pulls through when you need her."
Kleinfelder believes a healthy Finn in the line-up could be just the thing to bring that championship home.
Before Finn's arrival, Kleinfelder says, Harvard couldn't compete with championship squads like Penn State.
"Now," she says, "we're in the same league."