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Lamenting Only a Few More Bus Rides

Soccer's Beth Reilly

By Sean Becker

You might be surprised to discover what Harvard Captain Beth Reilly is going to miss when her soccer career ends next week.

"I'll miss getting on buses with my team," Reilly says. "When I saw this year's schedule, I was glad to see that we had four overnight trips, because they bring us together."

Bus rides. Do you need more proof that the Crimson's goalie is the consummate team player?

For the past two years, Reilly has been an All-Ivy Honorable Mention goalkeeper. Last season, she posted four shutouts and a 0.69 goals against average during the Crimson's Ivy title run. She has already posted two shutouts and three of the Crimson's four wins this year.

Forget the personal accomplishments. It is the team activities--the victories and even the bus rides--that Reilly savors.

"There's a lot to be said for being part of a team," she says. "When you're part of a team, you put everything you have into it. You have to expect at least as much of yourself as you expect of the team."

When Reilly talks about sacrifice for the team, she's not just offering lip service. The senior from Needham is postponing arthroscopic knee surgery until the season is over. An injury during her junior year at Nobles and Greenough High School led to reconstructive surgery. And in this season's first game at Providence, she tore cartilage in the same knee. Reilly is scheduled for her second knee surgery in November.

Until then, she plays with a heavily taped knee, which she claims is "about 80 percent." The knee is one reason why Reilly has decided not to pursue a remaining year of eligibility. "I could play another year," Reilly said. "But I'd like to walk away while I still have the legs to do it."

Nicknamed "Ripper," Reilly is the vocal heart of the Crimson defense that balances aggressiveness with coolheadedness.

"She's sort of a spontaneous spirit," senior fullback Susan Carls said. "She's a little crazy. She has a reckless abandon, but she's also composed and mature."

When Reilly first arrived in Cambridge, she wasn't sure if she even had a soccer future. Because of her knee injury, Reilly hadn't been actively recruited. Further complicating the situation was the presence of All-American goalie Tracee Whitley '87.

Reilly became Whitley's protege and had the starting job by her sophomore season.

"I came in really raw," Reilly says. "Tracee helped me to become a goalkeeper. She taught me to be a lot more vocal, to direct things. She taught me how explosive a goalie needed to be."

As a senior, Reilly has assumed the leadership position once held by Whitley. "She's really helpful," says freshman goalie Brooke Donahoe, who has played in six of the Crimson's 10 games this season. "She's got three years of Division I experience, and she's a good teacher."

Reilly is driven by a competitive nature and the need to meet her own lofty expectations. "The loss to Brown this year [a 4-0 loss that eliminated Harvard from the Ivy race] was the absolute lowest moment," Reilly says. "I've got higher expectations for the team and myself. I've got a vision of success, and I hate it every time it falls short. Every time I let in a goal, I hate it. Every time we lose a game, I think what I could have done that would have helped the team."

After Tuesday's 3-1 loss at the University of Massachusetts, Harvard is 4-5-1, but is still alive in the Ivy League race with a 1-1 record.

"Our goal is to win the rest of our games, and I think it's realistic," Reilly says. "I expect that our highlight still awaits. I know there's not much time, but it I think it's still going to happen."

Reilly won't be hanging up her cleats after soccer season. Come February, she will finish knee rehabilitation and assume her duties as third baseman and captain of the softball team.

The respect of Reilly's teammates is reflected by her dual captaincy. "She's the best diplomat you've ever seen," Carls says. "I'd vote for her for any office."

Whether it be soccer or softball, Reilly's dedication to her sports and commitment to her teammates are evident.

"If I don't dive for a ball, if I don't run out a grounder, if I don't give all that I should, I'm not setting an example," she says. "There's no better feeling than coming through for someone who depends on you, and knowing that they'd do the same."

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