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The Field Hockey Team's Sweeping Sensation

Harvard's Tina Lawler:

By Liz Resnick

Most fans are familiar with the success the Harvard field hockey team has had over the past two seasons.

In 1990, Harvard grabbed its first-ever Ivy Title, and senior Sandra Whyte was named Ivy League Player of the Year.

This year, the Crimson, playing without Whyte, earned a share of the Ancient Eight crown and its first-ever invitation to the NCAA tournament, while seniors Ceci Clark and Loren Ambinder picked up All-America and Clark was named Ivy Player of the Year.

Mather House's Tina Lawler, the team's sweeper for the last two seasons, received All-Ivy accolades in both of those campaigns.

Though the senior defender has not garnered the attention many of her fellow teammates have, Lawler has been an integral cog in Harvard's field hockey machine for the last three years.


Lawler grew up in nearby Wellesley, Mass., where she played soccer for a regional team in the spring and swam competitively throughout high school.

"I wanted to be Tina Lawler when I was growing up," fellow Welleslian Liz Berkery said. "She was a really good athlete."

After enrolling in Newton Country Day School in seventh grade, Lawler followed in her sister's footsteps by taking up field hockey.

Lawler's high school teams were as successful then as Harvard's are now.

Newton Country Day won its conference both her junior and senior year, making it all the way to the New England Independent Schools semifinals in both seasons. Quite an accomplishment considering Lawler's graduating class numbered a puny 40 girls.

While at Harvard...

It was Harvard's academic reputation that drew the English concentrator to Cambridge.

Lawler was recruited for field hockey by Nita Lambourghini, Harvard's head coach before Sue Caples took the helm in 1988. She spent her freshman year playing for the junior varsity--which was a "good but humbling experience."

"I was forewarned by my high school coach that I would have more success at a smaller school," Lawler admits. "But playing J.V. enabled me to play all the time and improve in a non-threatening environment."

After making the team as a sophomore, Lawler got a chance to play during her junior year when Caples converted the former midfielder into a sweeper.

"Tina didn't come here as a defender but when [Caples] gave her the chance to play everyday, she ran with it," said roommate and two-year Co-Captain Clark. "She got better and better every game. We had all the confidence in the world in her back there."

Looking Back

After the most successful season in the history of Harvard field hockey in 1990, the Crimson wanted one thing: to be even better in 1991.

It was. It's invitation to the national tournament was the first for Harvard, and it grabbed a piece of the Ivy and Boston Four Titles.

With her collegiate athletic career over, Lawler does have some regrets.

Although Lawler does look back fondly on being part of winning teams, it is not all smiles when she reflects on her accomplishments.

"I had very high expectations for myself and the team," the PBH Project Literacy Subcommittee Chair said. "I kept thinking it would be a culmination but I don't think I achieved my potential. I wish I could have been more consistent. I think I could have done more."

Her coaches and peers, however, seem to look at her career in a different light.

"Tina has a very good game sense which really helped us," Assistant Coach Donna Lee said. "She really knows how to react, when to hit the ball out and when to work it out. We needed Tina's experience to lead the sophomores and she did a great job."

Caples insists that the team always depended on Lawler's solid play.

"When Tina played well we played well," Caples said. "She did a fine job of directing a young defense. She played with poise and confidence, which is exactly what you need in a sweeper."

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