Freshman Shoots Down Opponents

The Harvard women’s soccer team has seen its fair share of stellar freshman pass through the program.

Two years ago, it was now-junior forward Erin Wylie, who led the team in goals, and two-time captain and fellow third-year defensemen Nikki Rhodes, who anchored the defense that year, stepping to the forefront.

Last year, a talented group led by sophomores Lizzy Nichols and Christian Hagner, provided a bright spot to an otherwise desolate year for the Crimson.

This year, it is just more of the same.

And at the top of her class rests freshman striker Gina Wideroff. With three goals on the season, Wideroff is not only pacing the offensive efforts of her class, but she is also the leading scorer on the entire team.

On top of this, her last two goals, both notched this past weekend against Boston University (2-4) and Wisconsin Milwaukee (3-3), both proved to be game winners.

The first goal, against the Terriers Friday evening, was all the more incredible, however, when placed in the context of the game. It came in the second overtime, after over 100 minutes of a scoreless draw, with both teams grinding to tally a hard-fought win. Just thirty seconds into the second extra frame, Wideroff received a one-time pass from Hagner, too one touch, then ripped a shot from 18 yards out upper-90’s for an improbable goal and an improbable win.

Wideroff continued her inspired play Sunday, tallying her second-straight game-winning goal with another incredible effort. This time, Wideroff received a beautiful ball on the endline from sophomore Devon Sherman, took one touch, then dove out to beat the keeper to ball and put the Crimson ahead for good.

In the face of this success, however, Wideroff remains humble and committed to the team, knowing that the work has only just begun for her class of 2011 and the team as a whole.

“There are only so many of us,” Wideroff said, following Sunday’s victory against the Panthers. “But the whole team is 26.”

Along with fellow first-year standouts, such as Katherine Sheeliegh, Katherine Kuzma, and Kerry Kartonis, Wideroff and the young stars of the Crimson have paced the squad this season. They have accounted for five of the six goals tallied by the team, and three of them, one from Sheeliegh and the other two last weekend from Wideroff, have been game-winners.

The class is mature, talented, and producing—a good sign of things to come for this year’s Crimson.

“They’ve played great,” coach Ray Leone said, following Sunday’s game. “But so has the whole team. I’m so impressed with the level of commitment of this year’s team—it’s unbelievable.”

—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at wehowell@fas.harvard.