Shielding the Goal

“It’s such a crazy position,” says Katie Shields ’06, who has tended goal for the Harvard women’s soccer team since her freshman year. “All summer [of 2005] I worked with goalkeepers at a soccer camp, and they are the craziest collection of athletes you can imagine. Basically, you’re putting your body in front of the soccer ball—you’re trying to get hit by the ball. But every time you touch the ball, it matters; there’s the chance to make a difference in the game. And whenever you make a mistake, it means a goal. There’s no other position in sports with so much adrenaline. You have to be in top condition, but 90 percent of the effort is mental. I’ve had games when I didn’t touch the ball for the whole 90 minutes, and at the end I was totally exhausted.”

Shields co-captains the Crimson with back Laura Odorczyk ’08, and was named to the All-Ivy Second Team last year after surrendering only five goals in eight games played, for a stingy goals-against average of 0.63. (Brittany Meeks ’07, who played seven games in goal, was nearly as parsimonious at 0.96.)

Katie Shields making a save in goal
Harvard Sports Information Office

Shields grew up in an athletic family in Dana Point, California, in Orange County. She started soccer at age five, but didn’t settle into goal until she began high school, which, she says, “is actually pretty late for goalkeepers nowadays.” Her club team, the Southern California Blues, were national champions in 1999 and finalists in 2000. Shields hadn’t considered applying to Harvard until former women’s coach Tim Wheaton recruited her after seeing her play in a tournament in Texas.

Last fall, Harvard went 4-3 in the Ivies, good for fourth place behind Princeton, Yale, and Penn. Yet the Crimson’s loss to Princeton, a team that went all the way to the NCAA semifinals, was a very close 1-0, and Harvard’s 8-7-2 overall record against a strong schedule earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Under new coach Stephanie Erickson (see previous page), Harvard plans to bring an offense-oriented game to Ohiri Field this fall. That’s an exciting style of play, but it also runs the risk of allowing breakaway opportunities for opponents, which will make Shield’s shot-stopping abilities more important than ever. That suits her fine. “Goalkeeping is a pressure position, but I just live for it,” she says. “I love the last five minutes of a game that you’re winning 1-0, or the penalty kick, or the breakaway that you have to stop. I live for those moments. That’s why I play.”

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