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Leading the Women Booters With Class

Soccer's Robin Johnston

By Hank Hudepohl

If you know anything about Harvard women's soccer, then you are familiar with sophomore striker Robin Johnston, the team's leading scorer.

And if you know anything about Johnston, then you know something about class.

Johnston is an unselfish player who emphasizes finesse over force. From her first game in a Crimson uniform, she has established herself as a talent.

A year ago, Harvard Coach Tim Wheaton put Johnston into a scrimmage between the Crimson and Tufts after a starting forward was injured. Originally, Wheaton had not planned to dress any rookies.

Instead of allowing the change in plans to overwhelm her, the Highlands, Col. native responded in what is now known as typical Robin Johnston fashion. After receiving an inbound pass, Johnston took a few quick dribbles, fired a shot on goal and scored.

When describing her dramatic entrance to the Harvard soccer scene, though, Johnston displays the modesty that is part of her class act.

"I just kicked it, and it went in," she explains, as if the ball did the real work. Like rolling, maybe?

"I was nervous not only because I had just scored my first goal, but also because I felt like I would have to live up to this model for four years," she adds.

But few others are better suited to the task than Johnston. She is no stranger to hard work. Hard work is the key to her success, not the luck of the draw--as she would have you believe.

Johnston has had to deal with her share of hard knocks. Two years ago, she had knee surgery. Two years ago, she had no idea if she would ever play soccer again. Today, she is the leading scorer for the Crimson with five goals and an assist.

In October, 1987, Johnston tore knee ligaments while playing in a high school volleyball game. Five days later she had surgery.

For a two-time all-state athlete with one high school season left to play, the injury was unacceptable. So Johnston decided that she was not yet finished with soccer.

"I love the sport," she says. "I felt that it was too much a part of me to let go. If I could still have fun, I was going to do it."

After two months on crutches and three more months of rehabilitation, Johnston jogged onto her high school soccer field five games into the regular season. A little bit slower, in part because of a one-pound knee brace, Johnston struggled to regain the form of old.

"The knee injury scared off most colleges because I wasn't playing to my full potential," Johnston says. "We ended up in the state semifinals, though, so I thought the year was successful."

One university that was still interested in Johnston was Stanford. And Johnston was interested in Stanford.

"I had a great trip out there, and I really though that I'd found my school," she says.

It was Johnston's parents who emphatically urged her to at least look at Harvard. She took their advice.

"It was then that I realized the California scene wasn't for me," says Johnston, remembering her visit to Cambridge. "I could really see myself here at Harvard."

Johnston has assimilated into the Harvard program with the same ease she shows on the field. As a biological anthropology major, Johnston has two classes with labs this fall and is late to practice some days as a consequence. But this doesn't faze a disciplined Johnston.

"I just have to work that much harder on my own," she says. "I want to be as graceful and mistake-free as possible. I'm not a reckless player."

"Robin has the desired combination of being strong on the ball with the ability to move around players as well," Wheaton says.

Flash back to last week's game against Boston College. An Eagle player, in a display of poor sportsmanship, hits Robin in the head during play. Instead of retaliating in kind, Johnston skillfully outmaneuvers her opponent the next several times she has the ball.

"I want to emphasize the sometimes forgotten beauty of athletics," Johnston says. "A weakness of mine is that I'm not always as aggressive as I should be."

She's been aggressive enough. Johnston put any lingering doubts about her scoring ability to rest in the Crimson's season opener against Columbia, tallying four times in less than one half of playing time.

Since then, Johnston has cooled off, but her effort against the Lions was rewarded by an Ivy Player of the Week award. If she resumes her torrid scoring clip, All-Ivy honors await her.

And if you know anything about Robin Johnston, that wouldn't be a surprise.

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