There’s a reason why the Harvard women’s soccer team elected Lizzy Nichols ’10 co-captain.
It has nothing to do with her three All-Ivy League selections, or her two All-Northeast Region Soccer Buzz honors the past two seasons, or the two invitations to train with the Under-20 and Under-23 Women’s National teams.
It was that few seconds of play 10 months ago, when Nichols showed nearly 800 fans at Ohiri Field the kind of leadership she brings.
Nov. 8 was the season finale, and the Crimson, one win away from an Ivy championship, took on the Columbia Lions — who were also just one win shy of the title.
The teams were deadlocked at one goal apiece when Harvard drew a foul in the penalty box with just nine seconds left in double overtime. Without hesitation, the Princeton N.J. native ran straight to the ball, put it on the spot, and got ready to take the kick.
“I knew that if someone took the initiative and had confidence in the decision, the entire team would have confidence,” said Nichols. “I didn’t do it because I wanted to kick the winning goal. I did it because I wanted the team to have confidence in that final shot.”
Nichols scored on the penalty kick, giving the Crimson an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and the program’s first Ivy League championship since 1999.
This season, despite the return of all six of Harvard’s 2008 All-Ivy selections, it will be Nichols’ job to keep her teammates focused on the 2009 Ivy championship.
“Coming off of a really successful season last year is ironically our biggest challenge this year as a team,” said Nichols, who worries about getting complacent as returning Ivy champions. “We’re trying to get this team driven to win again.”
Off the field, Nichols carries a tough dual concentration in history and literature and history of art and architecture. She holds down a 3.78 grade point average, but still finds time to make an impact beyond soccer as a volunteer with a group committed to building self-sustainable schools for girls in the developing world.
Nichols wanted to be more than “part of a machine that works without me,” she said of the group Circle of Women. “I wanted to really make a difference in an organization.”
Circle of Women, which was founded by a group of Harvard students in 2006, raised $120,000 to build a school in Afghanistan and will eventually look to build another. The organization promotes women’s education in the developing world, where in many places girls don’t have the opportunity to go to school.
Nichols helps with fundraising and is the organization’s Web officer. If these girls get “the opportunity to go to school and the opportunity to learn,” she said, “they can not only enhance their own lives, but also enhance their own communities.”
To get that to happen, said Nichols, the 20 or so group members get together once a week.
“I don’t know how she finds time in the day,” said third-year head coach Ray Leone of the busy, multitalented Nichols. “She really is a special person with the whole package.”