Lona Tracee Whitley
Soccer - Hall of Fame Class of 2003
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Tracee was regarded as the Ivy League's top soccer player in 1987 when she set a new school record for shutouts notching nine that year. She was three-time All-Ivy selection, Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1984 and Player of the Year in 1987. Tracee was two-time All-American and RCAA award winner. She is tied for first in Harvard's record books for fewest goals against in a season with seven, while allowing eight just twice. She is second for gaols against average in a career with 0.66, fifth for career fewest goals against with 40, and third and fourth for saves in a single-season with 126 in 1984 and 122 in 1985. She holds the record for most saves in a career with 42 and most shutouts in a career with 26. In season save percentage she holds the top spot with .940 in 1984, the second spot with .923 in 1987 and the fourth spot with .918 in 1986. For her career she still holds the top spot with .914.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
To explain the significance my induction into the Varsity Club Hall of Fame holds for me, I would like to share a little of my personal history. In my senior year of high school, I was blessed with enough athletic talent to be recruited by a renowned state university that had long fielded the pre-eminent NCAA Division I women’s soccer team in the country. Had I decided to attend that school, I would have done so on a full athletic scholarship and would have enjoyed winning three of the four national soccer championships its women’s soccer team won during my undergraduate years.
At the time, 1984, women soccer players were receiving little of the widespread recognition and respect they receive today. The transformative effects of Title IX on the perceptions of and opportunities for women in sport were just beginning to be felt. Although the top women soccer players were being told that women’s soccer might be included in the Los Angeles Olympics that summer, most players were fortunate just to have their team uniform and cleat costs paid! Indeed, it took twelve more years before women’s soccer gained exhibition sport status in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. It took another three years after that before the U.S. Women’s National Team—including some diehard players who had been my contemporaries in regional and national soccer camps, like Michelle Akers, Carla Overbeck and Mia Hamm—received their long awaited glory in the 1999 Women’s World Cup. However, in the early to mid-1980s, the prospect of year-round professional women’s soccer, product endorsement contracts and Sports Illustrated covers were pipedreams. In fact, many top universities did not even offer women’s soccer as a varsity sport. As a result, most of the talented high school players had to choose between pursuing their “real career” goals in venerable academic programs and chasing their “Wheaties box” aspirations of achieving the highest echelons in sport at the few schools then sponsoring quality soccer programs.
Thankfully, upon receipt of my admission to Harvard, I never had to make such a compromise. Aside from being the nation’s top private college, Harvard boasted a NCAA Division I, Top 20 varsity soccer team for women in 1984 and had been at the forefront of the Ivy, regional and national schools in developing such a program. There was no doubt that at Harvard I would receive an unparalleled education while being afforded the chance to play soccer at the highest NCAA level throughout my undergraduate years. With the gracious assurance from my parents that they would find a way to afford Harvard’s tuition, if that was the school I wanted to attend, I was able to make a choice that fully balanced my academic and athletic ambitions. When I arrived in Cambridge, the intellectual atmosphere and cultural experience proved far superior to anything I had imagined. Our team played outstanding soccer during my four years, reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA post-season tournament one year and pounding our Ivy League and Big East foes throughout regular season play. The innumerable lessons I learned at Harvard—in the classroom, in the dorms and on the fields—have remained with me as I have journeyed forward in my life. Moreover, despite their obvious appeal, I have never regretted foregoing a few championship rings for the many intangible benefits of my Harvard education.
All of that said, being inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame is especially momentous at this juncture in my life. At a time when the intellectual demands of my career as an attorney often preempt my leisure-time athletic pursuits, this wonderful honor reminds me of the great joy, pride and excitement I once experienced as the varsity goalkeeper for the Harvard women’s soccer team. The Varsity Club’s tribute also conveys to me that my contributions to the development of the Harvard women’s soccer program are remembered and valued. Finally, this award recognizes that I achieved athletic excellence while obtaining my baccalaureate degree at the premier academic institution in the world. I can think of no finer accolades.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the current and former members of the Harvard athletic community who helped make possible my collegiate soccer accomplishments and to the Varsity Club for honoring those accomplishments in such a meaningful and lasting way. I will forever cherish my membership in the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame.