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No one would mistake Lisa Yadao for James Dean, but this Harvard field hockey goalie is certainly a rebel, albeit an unassuming one.
Yadao doesn't fit the traditional athletic mold. She's neither obsessed with winning nor consumed by her sport. Rather, she describes herself as "an artsy sports type."
She even became a goalie for the wrong reasons.
Way back in eighth grade, the three-year starting field hockey goalie just liked kicking the ball around.
She was a converted forward, and the novelty of hitting the ball with her feet without being whistled for a penalty appealed to her.
Yadao, in fact, kicked so well that she was recruited by Harvard, where her real training began.
"At the time, I had no idea that being a goalie was so difficult," Yadao says. "It's not just stopping shots. You have to control the entire field.
Four years later, Yadao's superlative goaltending powered the Crimson to its first ECAC title and its first NCAA tournament bid [see related story, page 2]. For her efforts, Yadao was named to the All-Ivy second team.
But Yadao is not a stereotypical goalie, as she likes to point out.
"A lot of people think goalies are just big girls that fill the net because they can't play anywhere else," Yadao says.
Yadao's diminutive frame and athletic success destroy that myth.
A two-sport athlete, Yadao not only masterminds the defense for the field hockey team but lights up the scoreboard for the JV lacrosse team.
"I can't imagine myself staying in one position," Yadao says. "I like to run around the field."
Another stereotype Yadao contradicts is that good goalies are born, not made.
Despite attending field hockey camps since eighth grade, Yadao, by her own admission, only learned how to play goalie at Harvard.
"Ninety percent of the game is mental," Yadao says. "My coaches have helped to focus and improve my game."
The efforts paid off. In the last seven games of the season leading up to the NCAA tournament, Yadao allowed just seven goals, a remarkable achievement.
In the ECAC tournament finals against Princeton, Yadao came up with several aggressive saves to insure the 2-1 victory.
Yadao also sees herself as an anomoly of sorts in Harvard athletics. She eschewed the government-history-economics route most of her peers take, choosing to concentrate instead in fine arts.
She will use her training this coming year, to teach an art history course in a British high school this fall as part of a Memorial Church fellowship. Yadao has also participated in CityStep, and claims that dancing with kids was one of the great thrills of her Harvard experience.
"Working with others has always been a high priority for me," Yadao says. "I'm interested in a lot of things other than sports."
Conformity, to be sure, isn't one of them.
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