You could have learned a lot about the season of the Harvard women’s soccer team if you noticed what happened in the 62nd minute of its game against Princeton last week. Were you still watching at that point, you would have seen junior Susie Wilson, recently promoted from junior varsity, make her varsity debut.
Bringing up a jayvee player may not sound like news, but consider that before last week the total number of former jayvee players on the varsity women’s basketball, field hockey, hockey, and volleyball rosters combined was zero. Not one. And there was Wilson, playing the final 30 minutes of a 5-0 loss to Princeton.
Saying that the Crimson has been strapped for experience this season would be a gross understatement. Of the 21 players that have been on the roster since August, 12 are freshmen and only one, captain Laura Odorczyk, is a senior.
“It put us in more of a role with responsibility on our shoulders,” freshman Lizzy Nichols said. “We had to step out of our comfort zone in order to become leaders as well because there are so few upperclassmen.”
And with a bench so sparse, much was expected from this group of youngsters.
“It was unfortunate to have to ask so much out of the freshmen,” Odorczyk said. “Asking them to pull wins out for us in games, upperclassmen should have done that.”
To add insult to injury, or rather, injury to insult, the Crimson also did not have the good fortune of staying healthy.
Playing against Penn State early in the season, freshman Devon Sherman, who had been starting in the midfield, was sidelined with a leg injury that kept her out for the next nine games.
Next, fellow freshman and starter Nichols suffered facial fractures and was out for three games.
Then, proving that bad things come in waves, sophomore Allison Keeley, an anchor of the defense, went down with a stress fracture in her leg playing against Yale in the beginning of October. She has not played since.
“Injuries played a big role in how we have trained this season,” Odorczyk said. “For example, [Tuesday] was the first day we did sprints in practice. It was impossible [previously in the season]...we were just trying to manage injuries.”
The injuries also forced Coach Erica Walsh to move players into new positions.
For Wilson, that new position was the varsity team.
A torn ACL during her senior year of high school ruined Wilson’s prospects of trying out for soccer her freshman fall. The setback was not enough, however, to keep Wilson from playing varsity hockey. But after a season on the ice, Wilson could still not shake her desire to get back on the soccer field.
“After being on the ice hockey team my freshman year, I desperately wanted to play soccer,” Wilson said.
Last week she finally got the call, and to her credit has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
“One of the great things about her, she was brought up and right away had a lot of commitment to the team,” Odorczyk said. “She got herself right into it.”
“I have basically looked at it as a great opportunity for me to give the team a little spark,” Wilson said. “Our bench is so short, to give fresh legs even for ten minutes is essential.”
No matter how much energy she brings, Wilson will not be able to repair the woes of a team that has more injuries than experience and enters the final weekend of the season 3-13-1.
The news is not all bad, though. Next year the squad could have 20 returning, experienced, and hopefully healthy players—making this rare occurrence of a jayvee player moving up to a Division I varsity team unlikely to be repeated.
“Every single one of [the freshmen] has gotten a lot of game experience,” Odorczyk said. “It is going to have a huge positive impact on the team next year.”