The six hour bus drive from Princeton to Cambridge can rally drag. Who likes Jersey Turnpike fumes, Big Apple traffic, and Connecticut speed-traps? But returning Sunday afternoon from another first-place finish at last weekend's Ivy League Tournament in Princeton, the Harvard women's soccer team didn't mind the ride at all.
For head coach Bob Scalise and senior co-captain Cat Ferrante, the 4-3 overtime defeat of defending champion Brown in Saturday night's finals marked the Crimson's third Ivy crown in the tournament's four-year history.
For the record, the most notable feature of this year's Harvard championship was undoubtably the appearance of five Crimson starters on the All-Ivy first team. Amazingly, all five booters--Alicia Carrillo, Kelly Landry, Inga Larson, Deb Field, and tournament MVP Jenny Greeley--are freshmen.
"I knew the freshmen would be very good, but they're better than I expected," Scalise said yesterday. "They've meshed really well with our returning people."
Indeed, Scalise had already decided upon this year's new 4-4-2 formation (four fullbacks, four halfbacks, and two forwards) based on the talent of the returning lettermen including All-Ivy 2nd team members Ferrante and Jeanne Piersiak, and honorable mention Kelly Gately. But the Yardling quintet has more than filled the gaps in the preseason lineup, providing the core of the Crimson arsenal. The class of '85's contingent mans five of the seven central positions--Carrillo and Landry at striker, Larson and Greeley at inside half, and Field at sweeper--on the field.
Four--Carrillo, Landry, Greeley, and Field--of the five freshmen have similar backgrounds. This quartet started playing soccer in the sixth grade in competitive Massachusetts town leagues and continued to compete for as many as nine months of the year in high school, often in three different leagues. Carrillo and Greeley (who played together for two years at Wellesley High) and Field earned Boston Globe All-Scholastic honors during their high school careers.
Larson, hailing from Bainbridge Island, Washington and having only two years of high school soccer experience, provides the exception to the rule. The talented midfielder attributes much of her soccer sense to her extensive experience refereeing, which forced her to "learn the rules, watch other players and not just the ball, and anticipate the play."
All expressed pleasant surprise at the quality of Ivy League soccer. "As a sophomore I really feared that high school would be the end of my soccer days," Carrillo said. "But, it's such a delight here. At this level, there's so much more talent and it's that much more fun."
When asked about the sensational recruiting season, Scalise admitted that Harvard basically sells itself, but he also pointed to the outstanding work of the admissions office.
"I concentrate most of my efforts in Massachusetts? It has a strong youth program, I have developed several personal contacts here, and I can actually see the candidates in action," Scalise added. "Then it's a matter of working closely with the admissions committee so that I know who's a realistic prospect and they know who can help our program."
Whatever his policies, Scalise has consistently attracted quality soccer players to Cambridge and has established one of the top women's programs in the nation. This year's bumper crop of talented freshmen should assure Harvard's Ivy League ascendancy for at least the next three years.
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