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Saturday afternoon, the Harvard men's lacrosse team will take on Dartmouth in its last game of the season. For captain Mike Porter, this game marks the end of four years of wearing the Crimson.
Porter has been a starter on the team since his arrival, but his lacrosse roots go back much further.
"As long as I can remember, I was on the fields with my father," he says.
His father--a high-school coach of lacrosse, football and wrestling--spent a lot of time honing his son's lacrosse skills.
"It was guilt by association, I guess," Porter says with a grin.
By the time he reached his senior year of high school, colleges from all over were calling to recruit him for lacrosse.
"I had no clue where to go," he admits, "It came down to my father saying [Harvard] is the place for me."
Lacrosse was always important to Porter, but he always kept it in perspective.
"The genuine quality of [Harvard] kids really was great," says Porter, recalling a visit with the lacrosse team before he came to Harvard. "They made me comfortable."
"It was more important walking through the Yard and seeing the people going to class," he says. "Something stirred inside, me."
His perspective on lacrosse and life is attributable in part to his close relationship with his family.
"It's always been academics first, and do things for the right reasons," he says. "I've seen the things that made my father successful, and it's carried over into my life."
Experience also taught Porter well.
"I struggled academically in my first spring term here," he says. "It took a few mistakes to realize why I came here didn't all have to do with lacrosse."
Nevertheless, Porter has been a terror on the field.
"I play as hard as I can every second on the field, in a game or in a practice," he says. "That's the way my father taught me to play: if you don't play to win, it's not worth playing at all."
He was a ball-carrier in high school, but was converted to attack by Harvard Coach Scott Anderson.
"I had to play off the ball and become a goal scorer," he says. "It wasn't that hard. Plus, I liked scoring goals."
"I wanted this to be a tough team," he continues. "I wanted this team to be the hardest working in Division I."
He couldn't have been happier with the outcome.
"The way they responded to me, I couldn't ask for a better bunch of kids to lead," he says. "I feel a great deal of pride and affection for my teammates and their performance."
In his role as captain, he has also tried to use his experience and perspective to mold the team.
"I've tried to help them [the younger players] realize that lacrosse wasn't the most important thing in the world," he says. "I tried to direct the team to take steps not just to win, but to be a true athlete, and realize why we play this, or any sport."
He has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with his fellow senior teammates Charlie Gay, Mike Agrillo and Matt Camp.
"We're all each other's best friends," he says. "I may have been elected captain, but the attitude of the team is as much due to their leadership as mine."
Porter has also enjoyed an exceptional working relationship with Coach Anderson.
In his early days on the squad, Porter's hard play sometimes made him over-aggressive.
"For three years, [Coach Anderson] was probably pulling his hair out at some of the more intolerable things I did," he says with a chuckle.
Upon graduation, Porter, a government concentrator, will attend law school and then serve as an Army counsel as part of his ROTC service.
Despite some of the disappointments the team has endured this season, Porter will leave the team contented.
"Stats and records don't matter to me," he says. "I suppose I would have liked to make the playoffs, but any disappointment I feel is offset by the satisfaction in the progress the team has made."
"If you play as hard as you can, you can't have any regrets, win or lose."
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