For Mai Le, Harvard women’s soccer is all in the family. In just one year of action, the freshman midfielder has an Ivy League title under her belt.
But it isn’t her family’s first taste of success in the Ancient Eight. About 30 years earlier, her mother, Susan St. Louis ’81, won three Ivy championships of her own.
Despite her mother’s role in Harvard’s first league titles, Le did not arrive on campus with her family legacy in mind.
“I don’t feel any pressure to exceed my mom’s athletic accomplishments at Harvard,” Le said. “Her soccer records are incredible. I’m driven to do well and be successful just as much as every other girl on the soccer team, but nobody puts pressure on me to be my mom.”
Le, who tallied two goals and three assists in 13 games this season and helped the Crimson win its tenth Ivy League title, has already accomplished several of her personal athletic goals.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team succeed,” Le said. “Then winning the Ivy League became less of a dream and more of a tangible possibility. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about how cool it would be to have my team’s picture up on our locker room wall next to all the past champion teams, especially those which included my mom.”
Le attributes much of her success on and off the soccer field to her mother, who coached her for much of her pre-collegiate career.
“I think the most important things my mom has taught me are how to lead by example and to never do anything half-heartedly,” Le said. “She always showed me what to do—how to head a ball, how to follow through on my commitments and more—rather than just tell me.”
And as Le believes, her mother’s advice is worth taking. In her time at Harvard, St. Louis—a Harvard Hall of Famer—set many records that still stand today.
Le’s mother, a midfielder-turned-foward, holds the school record for most points scored in a game, tallying nine against Stonehill in 1978.
She also shares the Crimson record for most goals scored in a single game—netting four in that same late-70s contest—and tied her own single-game goal record against Stonehill again in 1979.
As a senior, she was tabbed as a first-team All-Ivy League selection and competed in the first NCAA women’s soccer tournament, helping Harvard finish third in the nation.
“[St. Louis] was one of the best athletes I had the opportunity to coach,” said Robert Scalise, Harvard’s first women’s soccer coach and current Director of Athletics, in an email. “She combined great athleticism with skill. Sue also had the ability to beat her opponents with the ball or without it. She could set herself up in position for a through ball or dribble around opponents to set herself up for goal scoring opportunities.”
But perhaps the most impressive thing about St. Louis, is that Harvard was her crash course in competitive soccer. She didn’t start playing soccer until one of her brothers introduced her to the sport during the summer after she graduated from high school.
“I tried out as a freshman in the fall of 1977, which was the second year that Harvard had a women’s team, and the team was still only a partially-funded,” St. Louis said. “I was very lucky to fall into that tiny window of time when it was possible to be a very successful woman soccer player without long-term training, if you were a good athlete. And I was successful beyond my expectations.”