Freshman Taryn Kurcz still remembers her first day of preseason with the Harvard women’s soccer team.
The California-native, whose goal against Cornell last Saturday earned her the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, was nervous. When practice ended, Kurcz was unsure of how her performance stacked up on this new stage. But her fears were quickly dispelled.
“I remember [Katherine Sheeleigh] coming up to me and saying, ‘Taryn, you did a great job,’” Kurcz said.
Without a doubt, Sheeleigh’s performance on the field speaks for itself. The junior forward leads the Crimson with five goals, three of which came this past week in Harvard’s two victories over Fairfield and Cornell.
But it’s been her leadership development this season that her teammates have really noticed.
“When she plays with a certain intensity in these games she’s setting an example for some of the younger players,” co-captain Lizzy Nichols said.
“If we’re having an off day she’s the one who steps up,” freshman Alexandra Conigliaro said. “She’s always raising the standards.”
On the field, Sheeleigh’s recent success could not have come at a more crucial time for the Crimson.
Entering the start of Ancient Eight play with a 1-5-1 non-conference record two weeks ago,
Harvard knew its hope of returning to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season rested on its performane in Ivy League play.
And since the Crimson opened its conference schedule on Sept. 26, the team has amassed a four-game winning streak and currently sits atop the Ivy League standings—largely thanks to the efforts of Sheeleigh.
“She’s extremely fast, she’s tough, [and] she has that mentality that a forward needs to be successful,” Nichols said.
In Harvard’s two victories over Fairfield and Cornell this past week, the junior standout led the Crimson offensively, taking 12 shots and scoring three goals, including the game-winner in the Fairfield match.
“She has a very competitive spirit and attitude when it comes to games and I think the nature of the Ivy League pulls that out of anyone,” Nichols said.
The first of Sheeleigh’s two goals against Fairfield came just over two minutes into the game.