Watching her plane touch down and Boston slip into view before her freshman year, the Harvard field hockey team’s Shelley Maasdorp had no idea what to expect. Alone in a brand-new country with her family stranded halfway around the globe, Maasdorp had left behind all that she had known and loved and now only saw empty tarmac.
For some people, the prospect of starting anew may have seemed overwhelming. But from the very beginning, Maasdorp was never lonely. She grasped the opportunity to learn about American culture and found comfort in the amity of her teammates. Though it would take her all of freshman year to feel completely comfortable here the amity of her teammates greatly helped to ease this passage.
“Two weeks into preseason I had 20 friends,” Maasdorp said. “It took me my whole freshman year to feel completely comfortable and to learn the culture. The complete openness of the team made me feel instantly welcome.”
Though her native Zimbabwe may still have been thousands of miles away, the senior midfielder quickly found a new home in Cambridge—along with a dazzling field hockey career.
“Shelley Maasdorp is a phenomenol player,” captain midfielder Kate Gannon said.
“On the field she is a go-to playter,” junior midfielder Jen McDavitt added. “I know very few people who can change the face of the game the way Shelley can.”
Maasdorp’s efforts have been recognized around the nation, as she garnered a Third-Team All-American selection last season.
And this year, Maasdorp has emerged as one of the top midfielders in the Ivy League, and leads the conference in goals (12) and points (27). On the No. 18 Crimson (8-4-0, 4-0-0 Ivy), the next closest in these categories is McDavitt, who has three and 17, respectively.
A “dangerous player with the ball,” according to Gannon, her amazing field vision and speed have led the Crimson to first place in the Ivies.
“She has really come into her own this season, with clutch goals in the games that matter most,” Gannon said.
Maasdorp is the striker on corners and scored all three goals against Yale on Saturday from this crucial position. Of Harvard’s eight victories, Maasdorp has recorded the game-winning goals in six of those contests.
She is constantly creating new opportunities, pressing the ball forward past would-be defenders. Add to that her unique background, and it is no wonder that she has remained an enigma to her opponents.
“No one knows how to deal with me,” Maasdorp said when describing her “foreign style of play.”
But her value to the Crimson has gone beyond statistics. She is also an integral part of the team dynamic on and off the field. Her ability to pick-up passing patterns has inspired confidence amongst her teammates—and helped them to loosen up and mesh together.
“One of the reasons we can play so well as a team is that we get along so well,” Maasdorp said. “You play best when you just relax and stop being uptight.”
When Maasdorp came here four years ago, she was entering a new life, culture and country. But when she leaves here in the spring, she will be taking with her not only an outstanding field hockey legacy, but also the friendship of 20 girls who have given her a home away from home.
Maasdorp will get a chance to help strengthen that bond when the Crimson faces No. 12 BC (12-4-0) today at 7 p.m. The matchup will be Harvard’s fourth of the season against a ranked opponent.