Naomi Suntal Miller '99

Soccer | Hall of Fame Class of 2014









Harvard Athletic Achievements
Naomi was a four year letterwinner and scoring machine for the three time Ivy League Champion Women’s Soccer teams of 1995, 1996, and 1997. At the time of her induction, Naomi ranks fourth in career points (106), is tied for third in career goals (37), and is second in career assists (32).  

 

One of only a handful, the four-time First Team All-Ivy honoree was also the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1995, Ivy League Player of the Year in 1997, and First Team All-American in 1996. She was recognized outside the league as a First Team All-Region selection in 1996 & 1997, First Team All-New England in 1997, Second Team Regional All-American in 1998, and First Team Regional All-American in 1997.
 

Hall of Fame Introduction Video by Tim Wheaton, Former Head Coach Harvard Women's Soccer 1987-2004

Remembering Harvard Athletics
Long ago someone told me that in order to truly succeed, to become all that I could be, I would need to surround myself with greatness.  Only by humbling myself in that way, would I truly realize not only the chasm between my own meager accomplishments and those of my worthier peers, but also how I might begin, with long and arduous work, to cross that gap.  So, I would like to begin by acknowledging the greatness that surrounds me, and congratulate all of this year’s inductees and my parents who guided me along this path.  It is a singular honor to be placed amongst others who represent not only the top athletes, but also the top students, in an institution whose very name is synonymous with greatness.

 

“Remembering Harvard” has been a formidable task for me. I have struggled, not just to transcribe my Harvard experience into words, but sometimes to even understand them myself.  My experiences at school, including time spent in the classroom and on the field, and the friendships developed over the years, have all worked their way into my subconscious in a manner I find difficult to convey. What I can say for certain is that my undergraduate years – those four years that I spent in the classroom and on the field – have imbibed me with the spirit of this school and my peers and inspired me to pursue, to the best of my ability, some of the greatness which sets this university apart.
 

Fond memories of our Harvard Women’s Soccer Team abound; some are as distinct as the day they occurred, such as the moment I came to pre-season as a freshman and unpacked my bags for the first time freshman year.   I remember that feeling of anticipation and the brief sense of accomplishment as I thought that all of the hard work and training had finally culminated to reach my goal of surrounding myself with the highest level of students and athletes.  And I remember the sense of anxiety as I wondered how I could possibly step up to the level of talent, commitment and challenges around me.  At the time, I did not fully realize what my role would be and how I was to be a part of this tradition of excellence. Perhaps, it is only now that I realize how I truly become part of the greatness that surrounded me.  
 

In the same vein, I cannot accept any accolades regarding my performance without acknowledging that it must be an award attributed to the work of our entire team.  When my teammates and I arrived our freshman year, we faced a daunting task.  Harvard Women hadn’t won the Ivy League title in 14years.  With a young and inexperienced team, there was no question that we faced an enormous challenge.  In spite of my personal doubts, I knew with absolute certainty that our team had the unprecedented talent and leadership to make it happen.  Coach Wheaton, Jody and Jay went on to lead our team to three Ivy League Championships and to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. More than coaches, they were my mentors and my family away from home.  They guided me through my own anxieties and personal growth.  Their love and devotion lifted a shy, bashful high school girl above her timidity and tempered her into a confident woman capable of leadership on and off the field.

But leadership is meaningless without a team worthy of being lead. Here again, I found myself surrounded with truly humbling greatness. Indeed, my teammates are what make my memories of HWS truly amazing.  I must acknowledge my “big sister,” Rachel --“Coby.” She was there to greet me at the start of preseason, empathize when I was feeling homesick, and encourage me in my academic and athletic aspirations.  Likewise as unforgettable are my teammates, and our struggles through torturous preseason three-a-day sessions and agonizing fitness tests, the laughs of writing and performing our Grammy-worthy fight songs for games, cramming for exams on the “Team Love” bus, celebrating and commiserating with them through every exhilarating win and every disheartening loss.  These are memories I carry with me.  Being the recipient of endless teasing from two older brothers, I had never truly realized that greatness could be more than belching the alphabet. I gained a new understanding of how “sisters” could carry each other through the ups and downs of high-level academics and sports.

While my Harvard experience was life changing, I must humbly acknowledge the endless love, dedication, and commitment that surrounded me before I even set foot in Harvard Yard.  My parents sacrificed so much for me that words cannot properly express my gratitude to them.  My mom, Suntal, would pack my dinner, pick me up after high school practice and drive me 3 hours round trip from San Antonio to Austin 4 nights a week for club practice.  “Homework?  Yes.  Do it in the car.”  Not content to simply be a chauffeur, she was also my de facto coach and never missed a practice or game. “How you play in practice is how you play in the game,” she would say.   Mom critiqued every single one, sometimes even sidling over to watch the boys’ games to pick up pointers even coaches couldn’t see.  My Dad, Alan, worked long hours at two jobs to pay for both soccer, and later, my Harvard education.  He even wore hand-me-backs from my brothers the last few years of his life.  It grieves my family and me that Dad did not live to see me here, or to know how much his greatness did for me.  I know he’d have a big grin on his face seeing me fulfill our dreams.

 

As I look back, I realize that the person who told me to surround myself with greatness was correct.  My parents, the Harvard tradition, my experiences on and off the field, the alumni association, and the connections that continue far beyond the undergraduate years have all been instrumental in my personal development.  Words cannot express the gratitude I feel to my parents, my brothers, my coaches, my teammates, and to this school.  I can only hope that my life and work will ultimately reflect some small measure of the greatness that has surrounded me, and that I might someday, in turn, serve as an inspiration to those who follow me.