It starts, as it often does, with the home. There were three boys, Giaff and Cameron and Grayson, then three girls, Francesca, Catherine, and Virginia, and finally a last boy, Phillip. Giovanni and Georgette Ferrante were prodigious babymakers, and they housed their family in a 200-year-old farmhouse in Kingston, N.J.
Kids need somewhere to horse around, and when the Ferrantes built a new wing on their farmhouse, they included a wooden-floored, two-story-high playroom, known as "The Gym".
Giovanni had played soccer in college, and when he introduced the game to his sons, they took to it quickly. The Gym became a place where the guys hung out to kick the soccer ball around, and as Catherine, the middle daughter, had always been athletic, it was only natural that her interest was perked and she joined them.
The group spent a lot of time in The Gym "diddling," juggling the soccer ball with their feet, and competition between male family members as to who could do this longest was heated. Cat, as she has come to be known by one and all, jumped right in, determined to keep up with her male siblings. And if at first she wasn't very successful, it didn't seem to bother Cat much. If she juggled the ball five times and then screwed up, she was just that much more determined to not screw up the next time. It was a learning experience, and Cat knew she was going to get better.
It was a short step from The Gym to organized soccer. Her junior year in high school, Cat went out for, and made, the varsity team at Princeton Day. That fall an article appeared in the high school paper, a small feature about the talented soccer family Ferrante: Giaff, Cam, Phillip and Cat.
The article drew connections that Cat hadn't thought of before. "My brothers have talent and so do I," she thought at the time. She took the connections and expanded on them; "I like soccer. Soccer is what I'm good at. Let's take it from there and use it." ****
The history of the Harvard women's soccer program is a phenomenally successful one, and for four years Ferrante has been a big part of it. Freshman year she was the third-ranked scorer on an Ivy Championship team, earning second team All-Ivy honors. Sophomore year she moved up to second leading score and first team All-Ivy, as The Crimson tied for the Eastern Championship. Last season, based on her four goals in the first-ever women's soccer national tournament, she received national recognition as a second team All-American, and though the team finished with a mildly disappointing 14-7 record, Ferrante's importance was underlined because she missed ten games--and four losses--with a broken foot.
The team Cat Ferrante, as women's soccer co-captain, takes to Greensboro, N.C. this weekend for the AIAW national championships is a dark-horse candidate for the title, and perhaps the best Harvard soccer team she has played on, in a group of good ones. But ironically, the year of her greatest success marks a changing of the guard in the women's soccer program, with Ferrante a member of the old guard.
Successful recruiting brought five freshman of uncommon ability--Kelly Landry, Alicia Carrillo, Debbie Field, Inga Larson, and Jenny Greeley--onto the starting eleven for The Crimson.
Products of years of organized soccer competition, the athletes coming in have more talents than those they are replacing (Landry for example has recently tied Sue St. Louis' '81 goal-scoring record), and the time when players like Ferrante can pick up the sport when they are juniors in high school, bat the ball around with their brothers, and come to star in a varsity program on the collegiate level is long past.
The freshmen stars provide interesting insights into Ferrante and the old guard on a mental level as well as a physical level. No one can question Ferrante's competitiveness--remember diddling in The Gym--but it becomes a relative issue when viewed in the context of freshmen attitudes.
"I don't know ...I fight hard, and stuff like that, but there's a difference," Ferrante says. "Whereas I might say 'I think I can, and I should,' they say, 'I know I can.' You hate to group the freshmen together, but they're cocky. They have a right to be.
"How often do you see women's teams show off? Not much. Mostly there tends to be too much passing. But in the UConn game, Debbie nutmegged a girl [passed it between her legs], made her look like a fool. Who would do that except a freshman? Personality-wise the freshmen are so powerful."
Maybe the difference is one of limits. Whereas the freshmen don't seem to know any--here they are in their first year of college soccer and leading their team to a 15-1 record and a third seeding at The Nationals--Ferrante seems to operate most effectively, to be most comfortable, when her parameters are defined.
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