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Harvard senior Brian Connolly lives for sports. During his four years here, the Needham, Mass. native immersed himself in lacrosse and hockey, as he has all his life.
And, with his characteristic perseverence, dedication and hard work, Connolly reached the top of his game in both sports--something not many people can claim to have done.
This past year, Connolly served as captain of the men's lacrosse team and a member of the varsity hockey squad.
"I don't know school, or life, without sports," Connolly says. "I loved playing all of them. I never put more work into one instead of another. Whatever season it happened to be, that was my favorite for the time."
Connolly kept busy in high school, lettering in soccer, hockey and lacrosse at Needham High School. And though he was only recruited to Harvard for lacrosse, the Mather resident made the JV hockey squad as a walk-on his freshman year.
Playing two sports at college was sometimes a juggling act for Connolly. Especially during the winter--when the hockey and lacrosse seasons overlap--the speedy and agressive midfielder often found himself running short of time.
"There were some problems trying to deal with both at the same time," Connolly says. "But [Lacrosse Coach Scott] Anderson was very understanding. He knew that I wanted to do two sports, and he gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted."
Connolly says Anderson played a big role in his athletic success.
"Without Coach Anderson, I couldn't done half as much as I have," Connolly says. "He recruited me here, and he was the one who first showed confidence in my abilities. He gave me a chance, and really helped my game over the four years."
Connolly, along with Co-Captain Paul Faust, had the unenviable task this year of rebuilding a weakened lacrosse program: long on youth and energy, short on experience and confidence.
It wasn't easy. The Crimson stumbled to a 1-5 Ivy season, its worst showing in years. But throughout the ordeal, Connolly remained upbeat and confident that, at the very least, the team would grow from the experience.
"I really wanted to help the freshmen adjust to this atmosphere," Connolly says. "Of course we wanted to win a lot of games, and we didn't do as well as we might have, but the freshmen got a year under their belts."
Although Connolly regrets not being able to return to the level of play the team achieved in his sophomore year--when the team reached the NCAA final eight--he insists that he appreciated playing with the young team this year.
"I'm not much older than they are," Connolly says, "so I kind of know what they're going through. I was glad to be able to help them."
But for Connolly, his greatest success senior year came not on the lacrosse field, but in the ice rink. After three years of playing on the JV hockey team, Connolly earned a spot on the varsity squad.
"Growing up in the Boston area," Connolly says, "I always wanted to play hockey, and Harvard hockey is a great tradition. I played lacrosse at first because I was good at it. I always played hockey just because I loved it."
He only played in one game this year, but at least it was an important one: the Beanpot final against Boston University. "It was a huge thrill for me to play that game," Connolly says. "I was very nervous going in, because I knew that it would be packed. Once the game started, I just concentrated on the game, and I calmed down a lot."
Of course, a win would have made the experience even better, but Connolly was happy just to be skating out on the ice at the Garden. "Playing in the Beanpot, and beating Yale in double overtime to win the Ivies [in lacrosse] my sophomore year are my favorite Harvard memories," he says.
The soon-to-be-grad says he hasn't gotten tired of either sport.
But why should he? Sports and "BC" (as his friends know him) are like beer and pretzels.
"I was lucky to have been involved with three great programs here," Connolly says. "I got to know some great players and coaches. That made my experience here at Harvard so much more rewarding."
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