Hawaii Grown Report

Harvard's Alisa Sato kicked against Central Connecticut last year. Sato scored her first two collegiate goals this season.

Harvard’s patience
in Sato has paid off

College soccer is finally happening the way Alisa Sato dreamed it would.

For the past four seasons, Sato had seen the inside of training rooms and doctors' offices more often than she had a close-up view of a soccer goal.

A torn left anterior cruciate ligament the summer before her senior year of 2000 at Iolani, followed by recurring stress fractures in both shins after she got to Harvard, kept Sato's talent from flourishing.

She played in only 18 games her first three years at Harvard, and never scored.

In her final season, that has all changed and last weekend the dream came true at last.

Sato scored one goal, a shot that left the goalkeeper sprawling, and set up the other as Harvard defeated Penn 2-1, ending Penn's 10-game unbeaten string.

"She is playing out of her mind," Harvard coach Tim Wheaton said. "She is a one vs. one artist, a great leader and incredibly effective."

Both goals against Penn started with Sato beating defenders one-on-one. "The opportunities came with me being wide, opening up space in the middle, and taking on the outside backs one-on-one," she said. "It opens up holes in the middle if you open up the field."

On her assist, "I beat three or four defenders on the left side and then slotted it to the other forward in the middle and she scored," Sato said.

"Finally, I'm feeling healthy and I can focus on my game rather than my injuries," she said.

"Her aggressiveness got the team motivated and fired up," Harvard spokesman Kevin Anderson said.

Sato, who is from Mililani, is a biology major who is applying to medical schools for next year. "My experience with my knee surgery in high school sparked my interest," she said.

Sophomore Maile Tavepholjalern, a former Punahou student from Manoa, also is a key starter for Harvard. "Maile has great vision, incredible technical skills, heart and attitude about the game," Wheaton said.

"They both are amazing people," Wheaton said. "People here are so proud that they walk around as Harvard soccer players."

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