Emily Stauffer Keenan '98

Soccer | Hall of Fame Class of 2014

 







Harvard Athletic Achievements
Arguably the greatest player in Harvard women’s soccer history, Emily Stauffer was a two-time captain and four year letterwinner. She was a constant of the program, helping to bring it to prominence and leave a lasting impact for years to come. Her career mark of 36 assists remains the program all-time record. In her years with the program they amassed a 50-13-5 (24-1-3 Ivy) record, with two Ivy League Championships, and four NCAA Championship appearances.

As successful as the program was in that time, Emily was recognized on and off the field at every level. Four First Team All-Ivy selections in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1998 compliment her selection as Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1994, and two-time Ivy League Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996. She earned All-American Honors in all four years; with Honorable Mention in 1994, Second Team in 1998, and First Team in 1995 & 1996. She was also recognized as a Second Team Academic All-American in 1996 and 1998.

Additional accolades and awards in her senior year including, NCAA Woman of the Year Finalist, NSCAA Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, NCAA Top VIII Award, and the Radcliffe Prize recipient, make Emily one of Harvard’s all-time most accomplished athletes.
 

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

Remembering Harvard Athletics
I would like to thank the Harvard Varsity Club for hosting this special evening and for including me among these distinguished honorees.   I accept this honor on behalf of my family, teammates, and my coach at Harvard, Tim Wheaton.  This journey is nothing if not for you.

 

It was twenty years ago this fall when I arrived at Dunster House for my first preseason and my first day as a member of the Harvard Women’s Soccer family.   Two decades later, I get it now.  Once you’re in, you’re never out.  And the camaraderie and team love will follow you wherever you roam.  But on that day, I was simply terrified.  
 

As a freshman, there was no way for me to know what lay in store over the next four years – that the fitness sessions and beach days would bind us together as a team, that the wins would uplift us and the losses would embolden us, that the bus rides and dinners would sew into us a humor decipherable only by us, and that the upperclassmen would teach me the subtle skills of when to streak down the sideline on an overlapping run and when to streak Harvard Square (most notably my freshman year after our victory over Yale with me in a freshly minted arm cast and our center back in red cowgirl boots).  I didn’t yet see that our warm-up tape would be the soundtrack to our college years, and that we would never forget the words to Mary Moan.  I certainly couldn’t see past graduation into our twenties when we would all stand up at each other’s weddings, or into our thirties when we would show-up at the baby showers, or even further when we would reunite at Ohiri Field for alumni games wearing old cleats and the wrong socks and yet still feeling very much like we were the best thing going.

But before I talk about these girls that became a team and then a family, let me first tell you how I arrived at Dunster House that day.  I rode in the back of the Stauffer family minivan with my little sister, Hannah on my left, and my older brother, Matt on my right and the Forest Gump soundtrack in the tape deck.  

 

My mother and father raised three soccer players, three center midfielders who would all go on to play in college.  But more than that, and I give them the most credit for this, they raised three very close friends, siblings who needed each other and counted on each other and celebrated each other.   I am grateful to my mom and dad for all the hours they spent driving us to practices and games and tournaments, and for nurturing in us a competitive spirit that drove us harder, but never drove us against each other.  I am grateful for the times they encouraged me to keep playing, when the pressures of my teenage years might have led me otherwise. My mother and father were always there for us, with wise words to keep our heads straight, and a thermos of spaghetti to keep our bodies running strong.  But most of all, I am grateful to my mother and father for giving me two best friends with whom to share life.   I know I would be nowhere without Matt and Hannah, least of all here tonight.
 

My older brother, Matt set an example of discipline and hard work that was difficult to emulate, but my sister and I were smart enough to know we should try.   Well before the language of cooper runs and beep tests were established in our vernacular, my brother was devising fitness tests in our backyard and timing his runs through the neighborhood.  He taught me how to train in the off season, how to balance soccer practice with SAT prep, and most importantly, how to want to be the best but want your teammates to be better.   When he went off to play soccer for Williams College, the same school where my sister would eventually play, I could tell he was onto something great, and I wanted it too.  It was only by his example that I gained entry into Harvard Yard.


And if I had been lucky enough to have an amazing role model in my older brother, I soon realized that I was just as blessed at Harvard for the teammates whom I looked up to.   Genevieve Chelius Mallgrave was our co-captain my freshman year, and she set the standard for Harvard Soccer – unflinchingly fierce on the field, and unfailingly warm off the field.  She brought the freshmen into the family, and taught us the ropes – everything from how to ration our per diem on the road to how to navigate the Crimson Sports Grille.  I won’t name names, but some of us may have even followed her lead straight into the arms of the Harvard Hockey Team.


My biggest regret in four years of Harvard Soccer is our tie against Brown my freshman year.  With the Ivy League Title on the line, we relinquished the lead in the final minutes and with it our share of the Ivy Crown.  We all wished we could have sent that senior class out with a ring.  And for those of us on the field that day, it ignited a fury in us that would smolder through every practice, every fitness session, and every game until we had our chance again.   On a rainy day in 1995 we travelled to Providence to finally make good on our promise.  On a muddy field under the lights with all of our families and friends on the sidelines, “Timmy Wheaton’s Crimson Army” destroyed Brown and claimed the first of three consecutive Ivy Titles.
Let me tell you what it was like to play center midfield for the Harvard Women’s Soccer Team.    In so many great games over the years, I roamed the field tethered to one of our other center midfielders, either Devon Bingham Kohler or Susie Delellis Petruccelli, to whom I have managed to remain tethered for most of life and with whom we now raise a collective 11 center midfielders.  If I looked up field I might find one of my two roommates, the cagey Lindsay Minkus King or the crafty Keren Gudeman, or the best athlete in the league at the time, Naomi Miller, who is also being inducted tonight.   The talent of our forward line meant that they could take a bad pass and turn it into a goal, just like Naomi did her sophomore year to score the wining goal against Yale with 41 seconds left on the clock.  If we needed support on the flanks, we had some of our best pals ready to run – Dana Tenser Federman with her blazing speed, Kristen Bowes Burke with her reckless abandon, or the incredibly talented knuckleheads, Ashley Berman and Beth Zotter, whose darting skill and attacking speed were incongruous with their sweet hilarity off the field.


I am most grateful for the players who literally had my back.  Strong willed, disciplined, selfless defenders defined our team during this age.  Not surprisingly, the majority of our defenders are now doctors.  I knew if anyone snuck a pass by me down the sideline they would be drilled by Rebe Glass or Jess Henderson, or systematically unpacked by the reliable Jamie Chu or relentless Gina Foster. 


The voice of our team belonged to our sweeper, first from the elegant and aggressive Meg Kassakian Connelly, and later from the graceful and exuberant Jessie Larson Dixon.  Imagine playing every game with the good spirit of one of these two backing you up and telling you what to do.  “Drop right, Stauffs.”  “Push up, Stauffs.”  “You got this, Stauffs.”  I often wish I still had their voice in my life today.  “The soup is boiling, Stauffs.”  “You’re late for pick-up, Stauffs.”  “You got this, Stauffs.”   I was at my best when their voice was in my head.


It was our 11th and 12th players – the goalkeepers and the bench – who were the hardest working and most determined members of the team, and the heart of Harvard Women’s Soccer during this time.  Our three goalkeepers were some of the best in the league, and it was shame they only let us play one at a time.   As a team, we drew our integrity from our bench. It didn’t matter how talented you were or how much you played, what mattered was that each of us worked hard for the family.   Our bench held us accountable to this.  We were hollow without them.


As a center midfielder, it was my job to see the whole field and know where all of my teammates were.  Two decades later I still wear this mantle.  As I recently shared with the current Harvard Soccer players when they visited my home for dinner before an away game, “I can’t find most of my Ivy League Championship rings, but I know where each and every one of my teammates is.” 


The bond of a real team extends far beyond the confines of the field, and this was especially true for ours.   More so than the victories, it is the shenanigans of the bus rides and team dinners that we often use as a touch point for who we were during that time.   For me, I will also remember the incredible love and support my team gave me while my older brother was sick.
My brother died of leukemia midway through my senior year, after a two-year battle with the disease.  He spent the final week of his life in the hospital in Boston.  Matt had a way of bringing people together, and by his last day there were over one hundred people in the waiting rooms.  The entire Williams College soccer team was there, and much of the Williams College student body.   It was January and Harvard students were busy in reading period preparing for exams.  But not my teammates, they were at the hospital with us that week, and in the room with us when the doctors told us there was no longer any hope.   I have incredible memories of all of my teammates and the fun and amazing times we shared together as young women, but I hold onto that one sad memory as a permanent reminder of how generous and loving they were when I needed them most. 
Of course this sense of loyalty and generosity of spirit started with our coach, Tim Wheaton, who guided us to compete at the top of the NCAA, but more importantly guided us through difficult personal times and wanted us to be more than just good soccer players.  He made sure we were good teammates, good people, good friends. He built one of the best teams the Ivy League has known, but more importantly, and anyone who knew us in college would testify to this, we were one of the closest teams, one of the most fun teams, and one of the best teams at taking care of and celebrating each other.   When our center back performed in the freshman play, we all were there.  When our goalie played first violin in the orchestra, we all were there.  When our seniors turned in their theses at last, we all were there.   I am so thankful to Tim for recruiting such a wonderful group of teammates to Cambridge, and for holding us to our best while we there, in every component of our lives. 


I am proud to be here tonight with my family and friends from over the years.  Most especially I am proud to be here with my husband, Jimmy, who is everything and more I could ask for in a life partner, and our four children – Johnny 8, Lyla 7, Charlotte 6, and Mack 3. 


My husband Jimmy was a great lacrosse and basketball player at Notre Dame, and many people ask us if we’d like to see our children follow our footsteps into sports.  We’ll see where they roam.  May they follow their heart down the path that calls them, and along the journey may they find a group of friends like we did, who can be a team and a family to accompany them through life.  And most importantly, I hope that they follow their mom and dad’s lead and remember that their first team is always each other.   The home team.