Jessica Larson '00
Soccer | Class of 2015
Harvard Athletic Achievements
As a member of a four-time Ivy Championship team used to excelling beyond the competition, it takes a lot to stand out. Jessica Larson did just that, making a name for herself, all the while propelling her team to success. While on the squad, Larson and the Crimson made four NCAA tournament appearances. In 1997 they made it as far as the third round, only falling short to the University of North Carolina, who would go onto become National Champions that year.
As a freshman and sophomore she earned All-Ivy second team honors, and her junior year, she found her way on the first team All-Ivy squad. Additionally, Larson was named to the Soccer Buzz All-Northeast and NSCAA All-Northeast second teams.
Though her position in the backfield did not lend her to recording points, Larson earned an impressive amount of accolades, all supporting the claim that she was the best sweeper in the Ivy League. Her senior year she earned Ivy League Player of the Year, as well as a spot on the All-Ivy first team to top it all off.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
I am honored and delighted to join the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame. It is quite humbling being on the same list of soccer greats as Emily Stauffer, Naomi Miller, and Andrea Montalbano. It feels strange to be standing here alone when there are so many other people that contributed to my success, namely my teammates who worked tirelessly alongside me, giving me the heart, drive and determination to keep going.
Coming from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and being the only New Mexican in my class, the first person to come to Harvard from my large public school (Go Bears!) was no easy task. To be honest, I felt like I was going to throw up when I found out I got into Harvard. Leaving the land of green chile, wide-open spaces and endless blue skies was very difficult for me. I am a homebody at heart and every time I left to go to preseason I cried.
My first memories of Harvard stem from my epic recruiting trip (thanks to Devon Bingham and Jen Burney). I played pick-up soccer, went to the freshman formal and was delayed going home due to a major snow storm that covered Harvard yard in a blanket of white. On this trip I was impressed with how kind and open everyone was, and that the women on the Harvard Women’s Soccer team were not only soccer players, they were humanitarians, artists, pre-med students, singers, violinists, rowers, and lacrosse players. All in all the most talented group of women I had ever met.
I remember my first day of preseason Freshman year, moving into Quincy House and meeting my freshman teammates for the first time, Ashley, Beth, Julia, Gina and Ann. I was unaware then, that this ws the beginning of some of the most important friendships in my life.
Being a part of Harvard Women’s Soccer enriched my life in many ways. Playing a team sport automatically puts you in a position where you are fighting for something that is greater than yourself. Our team motto was “Team Love” and I remember writing that in sharpie on my t-shirt for our first preseason inter-squad game. We were a sisterhood of women that supported each other on and off the field. These friendships have withstood time and today Zotts and Bermie are two of my best friends. Even though we live hundreds of miles apart, we have gone through life’s ups and downs together, been at each others sides for marriages, births, divorces, moves, career changes, everything.
So much of our “team love” spirit was about being silly, laughing and singing. Music was a big part of our team. We made psych-up tapes, wrote songs to sing at team dinners, and always seemed to be singing at the top of our lungs, whether it was walking out to the field, heading back to our dorms after an away game late at night, or at post game celebrations. We loved to sing and were never shy about it.
On the field, being a part of this team that was much bigger than any one individual, that cared so much for each other, was one of the best places to be. There is nothing like playing a grueling soccer match where both teams are playing their best, fighting for and with our teammates, strategizing, making split second decisions, exhausting yourself, and finding it within yourself to work harder, to not stop. We did this as a group at practices, fitness sessions and in games. I can still feel what is like to walk on the field with Emily Stauffer, our soccer goddess at the helm, with incredible vision and effortless ball control. There was Keren Gudeman’s rock solid presence in the midfield and Devon Bingham’s ability to win every air ball. I can see Ashley Berman’s sleek runs down the sideline and quick, powerful shots, or Beth Zotter’s intensity and creativity with the ball. And there was Kristen Bowes’ bad ass attitude and bulldozer runs and Gina Foster, a player who we wished could play all three positions at once because she was that good at all of them.
It was in the defense where I felt most at home. As defenders we did not care about glory, stats or flare, we cared about keeping the ball out of the net and looking out for each other. We called the defensive end our “home” and the defensive line was a tight knit group that took special pride in tirelessly keeping the ball away. When I first stepped on the field for Harvard, Rebe Glass was the player that taught me the loyalty and work ethic of being a defender. Lauren Corkery was a spitfire with the quickness to deny anybody the ball, Jaime Chu, the most skilled defender played the most precise balls, and Brooke McCarthy always tackled with incredible strength. Our goalkeepers, Ann Browning and Jen Burney, constantly sacrificed their bodies (and orbital bones) for the team, in order to keep the ball out of our house. It was such an honor to be a defender, a part of the “D”.
The person behind the scenes responsible for setting the “Team Love” culture and creating the space for hard work and collaboration was our coach, Tim Wheaton. We were “Timmy Wheaton’s Crimson Army.” Forever burned in my memory will be his analogy of “hunting in packs,” chasing the ball down as a unit, like a pack of wolves. I will also always remember how once we got to the field we had to be running, no walking, no coasting, the field was a place to work hard. My favorite defensive drill was “Bogies” and it was so much fun playing 4 V 4 to big goals at the end of practice with a super intense competitive spirit.
There is no possible way I could have been a student athlete at Harvard without the support from my family. My senior year, my dad and my biggest supporter, came to nearly every game. When I knew he would be there I would search for him in the stands and wait to see his fist pump twice in the air before I was mentally ready to play. After the games he would take my roommates and me to dinner and we would run through the game together. My mom, a seventh grade teacher with superhuman kindness and someone I strive to be more like everyday, was my support from home. She listened to me on the phone when I was stressed out and couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night and always made me feel like it was going to be okay. I was also lucky to have an Aunt and Uncle who live in New York City who came to games here at Harvard and when we played at Columbia. They were even there when I moved into Canaday freshman year. And my cousin Allie visited when she was just a high school student, now working on her PhD at Harvard. It was such a relief to see their familiar faces at games and on weekends.
As I wrote this essay I had my two girls, Maren and Charlie, in the front of my thoughts. This was a way for me to let them know how special my experience playing at Harvard was. I hope that in their futures they will find something that they can love, work tirelessly for and form forever-bonds with teammates, whether it be on the soccer field or climbing in the mountains. My husband, David, is now my number one teammate. We work together to encourage our girls to be active, silly, adventurous and loving. The Dixon Team has taken its cues from Harvard Women’s Soccer!