He is a sophomore with junior eligibility listed in the soccer team program as a senior. It all seems a bit complicated but Lee Nelson, leading scorer for the Crimson, has not done things the easy way.
Harvard has been an up and down experience for Nelson. He entered with the class of '78--a high school all-American--but he did not take the place by storm.
He returned last fall after taking two years off with sophomore eligibility, to a team which went 2-10-1, and he is now one of the few players back from that dismal season for the revival of Harvard soccer.
Through it all, Nelson seems to have figured out some things about Harvard and soccer but he is not comfortable talking about his soccer exploits or his reasons for leaving Harvard after a month of his freshman year.
He searches for the right explanation for his leave finally saying, "I needed to figure out why I had to be in school." He adds, "I don't think the two years off helped my game but for other reasons it was worth it."
He feels that last season's tailspin, including an eight-game losing streak ending the season, was also a learning experience. "The bad part is a lot of people expected to lose. For me, it was a good experience in a way.... Soccer had always meant a lot to me, I had always been on a winning team.... I realized then that soccer was not the only thing."
But Nelson never thought of quitting. Since he left high school, he had managed to keep in touch with the game and he wasn't going to give it up.
And now he is a major part of a team which was rated third in New England this past week.
What has changed between last season and now? Nelson feels that the team is closer. Winning helps, of course, "but we lost our first game this year and didn't let down" he adds. As for Coach Ford, Nelson feels that the coach started this season with a new attitude. "There's really nothing left over from last year," and with newly hired assistant coach Kevin Welch helping out, Ford could start over and do what he wanted to do.
When it comes to making predictions about the rest of the season, Nelson hesitates again. "I don't want to be the first to say we can make the tournament," he says, and then goes ahead anyway: "I think we have a good shot at it."
Although he won't tell the whole world, after two years away from Harvard and a frustrating soccer season, Lee Nelson has things pretty well figured out. Ask him what he plans to do with a major in French and he'll tell you, "Go to France, I guess." And he knows that, regardless of what the soccer game program says, he's got at least one more season of Harvard soccer left.
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