Girls’ lacrosse captain Olivia Harpel’s accolades are so varied and abundant that when listed on paper, they look like Julia Child’s grocery list. She’s been an all-American twice, the Princeton Packet’s player of the year in 2013, MVP of the winning team during the Champion All-American Showcase title game last year, started on varsity her freshman year, and currently holds the school records for draw controls, ground ball pick-ups, goals, and assists, both in a single season and during a career.
Yet with all these proud achievements, her humility shines through, as she cites the support of head coach Beth Serughetti and her teammates as the primary reasons for her success. “North girls’ lacrosse has taught me more than I thought possible about the sport and myself,” Harpel said fondly. “Being a leader is simply showing that you are capable of competing for yourself, but choosing to compete for them.” Serughetti describes Olivia as “the backbone of our team…she has high expectations for herself and her teammates. That raises everyone’s level of play.”
Her teammates say she has lived up to her ideas about leadership. “Olivia isn’t selfish with her skill, but rather does what it takes to be successful as a team,” senior Julia Tampellini said. And she has some formidable skill, too: “I have been playing with Olivia for five years, and she still amazes me sometimes,” Tampellini said. “She has shots and plays that are just insane.”
Harpel is also known to balance her personality as a leader on and off the field to benefit the team as much as possible. “On the field, Olivia is competitive and determined to win,” Serughetti said. “Off the field, Olivia is such a nice, caring person. She is always there for her teammates no matter what the circumstance.”
Olivia balances her lacrosse career with participation in two other varsity sports, but lacrosse is her passion. She will be playing at Northwestern starting this fall, a D-1 school that has been recruited her since sophomore year. It has certainly been a long journey from her start with the sport in fourth grade, but Harpel says her experiences have taught her about leadership and sacrifice along the way. In her sophomore season, North lost their first few games, including one to South; but while the team was crushed, they turned the season around to become the first North girls’ lacrosse team to win the Mercer County Tournament and the first to advance to the state sectionals. “By the end of the season, I believed that positivity comes from playing for your teammates,” Harpel said. “We worked hard enough to turn a bad start into an incredible finish, and I learned so much from what we went through that season.” This season, Harpel took these lessons and led the team to an undefeated season against a killer schedule, becoming both Colonial Valley Conference and Mercer County Tournament champions. “Our last goal is to finish the season out as strong as possible and play for the name on the front of our jerseys,” said Harpel, whose personal goals for the season included smiling more. “I think I speak for the entire team when I say it’s been a hell of a ride—but I’m so happy it’s not over yet.”
The people she’s touched over the years will surely be sad to see Harpel’s last season end too, her coaches especially. Serughetti lists some of Harpel’s best assets: “She has a knack for dissecting defenses and is lethal when going to the goal.” But despite the intimidating descriptors that come with someone as determined as Olivia Harpel, she has stuck close to her team and is grateful and moved by her experience with North lacrosse. “There is so much love and care that goes into North lacrosse, and that really shows on and off the field. I am truly grateful for that.”