It is afternoon in Bright Center. The red-orange seats, filled on weekends with rabid hockey fans, are empty. The Harvard men's team has finished its practice, and now it is time for the women.
Harvard Coach John Dooley sends the players through skating drills. Everybody takes a puck including a masked figure wearing very heavy goalie equipment. She lumbers along, keeping up with the others, and handles the puck almost as well with her goalie stick as the other players do with their sticks.
One does not often see a goal-tender who skates as well as a forward. But junior Jennifer White, the three-year starter for the Harvard women's hockey team, has always worked hard on her game and on herself.
An active youngster, White had an interest in tennis until she saw a professional hockey game.
"I Just asked [my parents] if I could skate and they said, 'Sure,'" the West Hartford, Conn. native says. "They thought I'd never last and lose interest quickly. But I didn't."
White spent the next two years learning how to skate. "I played defense and then played goal from then on," White says. "I wanted to play goal [right away] but they wouldn't let me."
Why goal, of all places? "I think I probably liked their equipment; I thought it was cool-looking," White says with a chuckle.
White remained active in other sports, but her main focus was on hockey-several times a week. She played for the girls' team in her school, Kingswood-Oxford, and on weekends she played on the West Hartford community boys' league. And sometimes she played on West Hartford's traveling team.
"In the winter it was kind of hard," White says of the many games she played in. "I don't think I every thought it wasn't normal."
Juggling several sports (and several hockey teams) was not easy for White. But neither was weighing the decision about which college to atend. Before settling on Harvard, she looked at several Ivy League schools.
"I just went [to Harvard] on a gut feeling," White says. "I didn't choose a college because of its hockey program. I chose the college that was best for me."
White started for the Crimson from day one, and posted great numbers despite going through rehabilitation for a knee injury. And last year, as a 5-ft. 8-in. sophomore, she backstopped Harvard to the pinnacle of the Ivy League world-a 10-0 record and a berth in the ECAC tournament.
But behind the sparkling new championship banner in Bright Center and the icewomen's championship rings lurked the cost of the Kirkland House resident's hard work.
"Statistically, it doesn't show, and in our record you can't tell, but I thought I slumped last year," White says. "I'd been playing since I was seven, and I usually play in the summer or do something. Last January I burned out, almost. I was just really tired."
So White spent last summer traveling in Europe, away from sports.