Sarah Leary '92
Lacrosse - Hall of Fame Class of 2008
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Sarah Leary is one of the most outstanding goalkeepers Harvard Women’s Lacrosse has ever seen. She started all 15 games as a sophomore in 1990, including a 13-save performance in the NCAA semifinals against Princeton, during an undefeated season that saw the Crimson capture the 1990 NCAA Championship title. Leary was a first team All-Ivy selection in 1990, 1991, and 1992, and earned first team All-American selections in 1991 and 1992. In 1991, she was chosen as National Goalkeeper of the Year, only to win the honor again the very next year in 1992. Sarah Leary’s career with the Crimson includes three seasons during which she touted remarkable save percentages as Harvard’s goalkeeper: 0.670 (142 saves) in 1990, 0.687 (160 saves) in 1991 and 0.672 (170 saves) in 1992. Leary also went on to be honored as an NCAA Postgraduate Scholar.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
Thank you to the Harvard Varsity Club and the selection committee for this honor. It is truly humbling to be recognized for playing a game that I loved and one that was so personally rewarding to me. It is an honor to be included in such an impressive group of athletes. Congrats to all of tonight's inductees.
First of all, I'd like to thank my family, friends and teammates who are here this evening to share this celebration. Your presence means the world to me. I am particularly honored to have my oldest friend and teammate, Julia French Veghte, introduce me tonight. Julia encouraged me to start playing lacrosse at Middlesex School and was my inspiration for attending Harvard. In fact, she told me that if I decided to attend any other Ivy school that I "would never win an Ivy title as long as she had anything to do with it." I liked winning, so that made the decision easy! Julia was one of those rare players that could have been an All-American at any position on the field. More importantly, Julia has always been my most loyal and supportive friend.
I also am thrilled to share this year's celebration with my teammate and dear friend, Liz Berkery Drury. She was a remarkable teammate with a contagious commitment to hard work and improvement. She made everyone on the team better. Congrats to Liz and her husband, Ted, on such a special night. They really are the first couple of Harvard Athletics. Believe it or not, it was Bill Cleary who first set them up together!
I often have been asked why I chose to be a goalie. Goalie is the only position where officials keep track of a player's mistakes on a big scoreboard for all to see. Every time a goalie gets beat, the other team gets a point. It can be a humbling experience, especially if your team is not very strong. But, that was not the case for me. I was lucky enough to be goalie during the golden years of Harvard Lacrosse. I played alongside ten All-Americans, three of whom participated in the World Cup. I was also coached by a legendary coach, Carole Kleinfelder. With Carole on the sidelines, we always knew we had a chance to win. As a goalie, I was lucky because Carole was always willing to invest a lot of time with me. As Carole used to say, "a good goalie can make up for a lot of mistakes... and a bad one can kill a team."
Our team was blessed with an incredible run from 1989 -1992. During my four years at Harvard, we posted a remarkable record of 54-6, won four Ivy titles without ever losing an Ivy game, played in three NCAA championship finals and won a national championship in 1990. We outscored our opponents 619 – 289. It was a dream to play goalie on these teams!
The key to our success was an unselfish and unyielding commitment to the team. We certainly had great athletes, in fact, some of the best Harvard has ever seen. But more importantly, we each were committed to doing whatever it took to win. Carole recruited players who were smart, self-motivated and obsessed with winning. Everyone was motivated to train harder, practice longer and improve faster - so that when the time came they could do whatever was needed to win.
I will never forget the 1990 NCAA Finals. After trailing by four goals after the first five minutes, Carole made some creative substitutions and we worked our way back into the game. With 24 seconds remaining, the scoreboard read Harvard 8, Maryland 7. Maryland's best attacker and the nation's leading scorer sprinted towards our goal. All-American defenders Maggie Vaughan, Ceci Clark and Susan Carls - plus the rest of the team - were racing back to try and stop Maryland's last chance to score. As our team's last line of defense, I remember thinking, "Sarah, this moment is why you love this position." After a rough start to the game, I wanted to come up big for my teammates. I held my position and blocked the ball from the mouth of the goal. And we were national champions!
Throughout that season, every player stepped up and made the sacrifices necessary to win. Our unwavering commitment to the team - and each another - is what made our teams so successful. As we celebrated the win over Maryland, someone said to me: "whatever you do in life, they can never take this away from you." To this day I share a special bond with every player, coach, parent and fan that was a part of that championship season. Those memories will never fade.
After living in Seattle for almost five years, I was fortunate to come back to Harvard for business school. Carole welcomed me back by letting me help coach the team. I loved being back on the field and involved again. When Carole took a sabbatical the next season, I called Liz Berkery Drury and begged her to come back from California to coach the team with me for the spring. Just like our days playing for the Crimson, I knew I could count on Liz. Most of our former teammates laughed at the notion that Harvard would allow us to coach the team together. But it was like a dream come true for the two of us. I loved coaching with Liz... and Liz loved being the boss! It was an honor to coach that team and build a lifelong connection with another generation of Harvard Lacrosse players.
The most valuable thing about my Harvard lacrosse experience is - without question - the people. Thanks to Carole for having enough faith in me that she never recruited a back-up goalie. Thanks to coaches Tim Pendergast, Edie Mabrey, Jen Greeley, Sue Heether and Scott Anderson for their remarkable patience and encouragement.
And thank you to my teammates. They kept the shooters far and wide, blocked shots, picked up my many rebounds, ran down my errant clears, found a way to win the draw and racked up goals against the other goalies - all the while making it fun! My teammates are an exceptional group of talented, driven and loyal women who have continued to be champions in their respective fields since college. They also are some of my dearest friends to this day. Collectively, they make up an incredible community that supported me in good times and in bad over the many years since we played together. I am forever grateful for their support and friendship.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, and especially my parents, for being my backbone of support. I know it was not easy being the goalie's parents, especially during those close games. You were always there for me with encouraging words, a warm embrace and unwavering love. I cannot thank you enough.