Then disaster struck.
In the second game of the 1998 season, Costello tore the ACL in her left knee, and her dreams of playing elite collegiate soccer had to be put on hold.
“When I should have been spending every afternoon and weekend playing the sport I love with people who would end up being my best friends, I was rehabbing,” explained Costello.
“When I should have been at the Harvard-Yale game, I was getting surgery. When I should have been competing for playing time as a freshman, I was keeping the playbook,” she added.
Instead of logging time on the field for the three-time defending Ivy champions, Costello endured an intensive rehabilitation regiment. After having surgery in November, Costello couldn’t resume workouts for several months, and at the conclusion of the school year she returned home to Southern California determined to return to top form.
Motivated by her father, Costello began the painful progression that would lead her back to the field.
“With my knee injury, it was my dad that was there every morning waking me up to go to workout,” said Costello. “It was my dad who helped me get where I am today. If it wasn’t for his wisdom and unconditional love for me, there is no possible way that I would have been able to enjoy the successes I have had up until now.”
Costello trained three or four times each day, working out with a professional weightlifter in the mornings and running through soccer drills in the afternoons in addition to twice daily conditioning sessions. It was grueling, but ultimately worth it. Costello came back the next season fit and hungry.
“It paid off,” said Costello. “I came back to preseason the following year strong and confident. I am the person I am today because of [the injury]. It showed me just how much I had taken for granted, it showed me the kind of person I really am, and it showed me my love for the game.”
Costello found her place on the team her sophomore season. She scored her first goal in a 4-0 victory over Boston College in 1999, and tallied seven points on three goals and an assist as a junior.
This season, though, Costello has capitalized on her increased minutes and led the Crimson offense. As a senior and one of the teams co-captains, Costello has been a catalyst for Harvard’s success in its first five games.
Costello registered 11 points on five goals and an assist to lead the Crimson to a 4-1 record. But Costello, who was named the Coop’s Athlete of the Week for her two-goal game against Brown on Sept. 22, insists that the entire team should share credit for her success.
“Everyone on this team is so skillful, so talented, and so soccer-savvy. With this caliber of players surrounding me, the goals are an obvious result,” said Costello. “Goals are just the natural result of getting some more time out on the field and playing alongside some of the best players in the nation.”
One of the players contributing to Costello’s success on the field is fellow captain and roommate of three years Colleen Moore. Moore, who scored 27 points in two and a half seasons before tearing her ACL last year, knows the trials that Costello has endured as well as anyone, and she has nothing but admiration for her teammate’s demeanor.
“No matter what her role has been,” Moore said, “whether she was an injured player not playing a minute or a senior captain scoring all of the goals, she has been positive. It has been special [being captains together]. We have been through the highs and lows and have come so far together.”
The team’s younger players appreciate Costello as well, citing both her talent and leadership as valuable assets to the team.
“I think that Caitlin is a true leader,” said freshman forward Alisha Moran. “She is inspirational not only in the way she plays on the field, but with things like the pep talks before the game. She is always encouraging.”
With Costello’s senior season in full swing, her tumultuous freshman year seems far away. But things really aren’t that different. Costello still loves soccer, and now she is playing the game she loves and playing it well.
“Soccer for me is that chance to put everything aside,” Costello said. “It is a chance to put all the superfluous aspects of life that cause too many problems aside and go out and do something I love.”
Costello is making the most of that chance.