When freshman Midge Purce arrived on campus last summer for preseason preperation with the women’s soccer team, lofty expectations accompanied her.
As a standout for Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Purce was named Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Maryland as a senior, in addition to earning NSCAA All-American honors as a sophomore and junior.
The Olney, Md., native also represented the United States in both the 2012 CONCACAF U17 Championship and the 2012 U17 World Cup, recording a hat trick against the Bahamas to help the United States capture the CONCACAF crown.
Naturally, Harvard coach Ray Leone hoped Purce would make an immediate impact upon her arrival in Cambridge, as the Crimson looked to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the Ivy League in 2012. Purce, on the other hand, had only one expectation for herself and all of her teammates.
“I don’t really ever go into a season expecting anything more than to give my best,” Purce said. “I know that that’s the expectation that the team had of me…and the same I had for them.”
With Purce leading the charge, Harvard certainly did not disappoint. The Crimson dominated the Ivy League, going undefeated against the rest of the Ancient Eight en route to an Ivy League title, the program’s fourth in six years.
Individually, Purce had a historic first-year campaign. The forward earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Ivy League Player of the Year honors, becoming the first women’s soccer player in the conference to ever win both awards in a single season.
When Harvard opened the season with three one-goal losses, Purce led the way in geting the team on track and securing the Crimson’s first win. She scored the lone goal of Harvard’s 1-0 victory over LIU Brooklyn, which along with a 1-1 tie with Providence helped jumpstart a 14-game unbeaten streak that lasted until the Crimson’s final game of the season.
“I think sometimes people always just point to that she’s an amazing athlete, she’s very talented, and all that stuff,” Leone said. “[But] she’s more than that. It’s a work ethic. It’s a desire every day to get better. We’ve got to kick her off the field, that’s how much she wants to practice.”
As Harvard looks ahead to next season, Purce’s drive manifests itself in her refusal to be complacent despite her success in 2013.
“I really love to learn from all my coaches, all the new players coming in, and players that we already have,” Purce said. “I just want to be a better soccer player.”
An even better Midge Purce could be a nightmare for the other Ivy League coaches. Last season, Purce had some of her best performances against Ancient Eight opponents, netting five of her 11 goals in the Crimson’s seven conference games. Purce says that she relishes the target that will be on her back as the reigning conference player of the year and a member of the defending champion team.
“I respect every single team in the Ivy League—each team has tremendous players and tremendous coaches,” Purce said. “I feel honored that other teams see us and they want to play us hard…because that makes us a better team.”
As a rookie, Purce still had to adjust to the collegiate game, and as she became more comfortable, she developed. As the season wore on, Purce improved as an offensive catalyst able to create for herself and her teammates.
While three of her first four goals were assisted, only one of her final seven tallies came off of assists from her teammates.
Additionally, after recording only one assist in her first 11 collegiate games, Purce had three in the final seven contests of the year.
“I would attribute it all to the team and the effort that we all put into practice,” Purce said. “We all understood that we had a goal: to win the Ivy League…. The way that the team helped each other…on small levels and on larger levels was absolutely phenomenal.”
Leone recognizes his star forward’s massive potential and says that her work ethic will undoubtedly make her a better player season after season.
“It was a wonderful season for our team and for Midge,” Leone said. “The exciting part for us is that she can be so much better.”
—Staff writer Phil Delamater can be reached at email@example.com.