More than anything else, the 1988 Harvard men's soccer season has been frustrating.
Frustrating for senior Ramy Rajballie, who had the chance to be a Hermann Trophy candidate, had his team qualified for the NCAA playoffs.
Frustrating for the seven seniors who had tasted NCAA glory twice before and wanted one more chance at a national title before handing in their Crimson jerseys.
Frustrating for second-year Coach Mike Getman, who tried a slew of offensive combinations in an attempt to break a season-long scoring slump.
Frustrating for everyone--players and fans alike--who knew Harvard had the talent to match its number-one pre-season ranking, but wasn't seeing that skill, that domination, on the field.
Perhaps the season was most frustrating for senior back-up goaltender Chad Reilly.
Reilly was the glory boy, the hero, who carried the Crimson team to the NCAA semifinals in 1986.
And who has started only two games since.
The starting goaltender for the past two seasons has been another senior, Stephen Hall. There is no question that Hall deserves his position--he was All-Ivy last season, and has led the Ivy League in goals-against average all year.
But Reilly is also a top-quality goalkeeper, with enough talent to start at almost any school in the nation. Except Harvard.
"Chad is a top-level goaltender," Getman says. "He's outstanding, capable of starting almost anywhere. Unfortunately, I have felt that Stephen has been just slightly ahead."
Reilly proved his skill in the '86 tournament. When the Crimson's first-round game against Yale went to penalty kicks, Reilly batted away the Eli challenge. When the Harvard offense sputtered early in the semis against Hartwick, Reilly's perfection in the net kept the team alive. The Crimson went on to shut out the 'Wick, 2-0.
"There wasn't a stage in the tournament that [Reilly] wasn't a major factor," says Jape Shattuck, the Harvard coach for Reilly's first two seasons. "In the tournament, he was a giant."
The next season was a different story. Hall was back from the bout with mononucleosis that had sidelined him the season before. And he was playing better than ever. Getman made a decision.
And the way Reilly has handled that decision--one that put him on the bench for his last two seasons--has been more impressive than any save he made on the field.