The announcement came quickfire after Boston had already drafted their first three players of the draft: with the ninth pick, the Boston Breakers select Margaret “Midge” Purce from Harvard.
“I was just as flustered and stupefied by everything as everyone else was,” Purce said about hearing her name called in the media scrum afterwards. “It was a great rush and I’m super excited. I can’t really articulate well how I’m feeling but it’s a great feeling.”
Purce now joins fellow first-round draftees Rose Lavelle, Morgan Andrews, and Ifeoma Onumonu, all part of head coach Matt Beard’s plan to revitalize his midfield and add more punch in the attack alongside Natasha Dowie.
She’s already familiar with the Breakers; after all, the team practice and plays at Harvard’s home soccer field, and has scrimmaged against Harvard’s women’s team before. “I’ve been there, I’ve watched them for the past year - for the past couple years,” she said. “It’s gonna be really amazing to be a part of them changing and restructuring everything.”
But for all that she knows the team better than her fellow rookies might, Purce wasn’t ready to say exactly what her role with the team would be. “I don’t really have any plans in that sense. My plan is to go in there and grow as a player as much as I can and try to play within [Matt Beard’s] system and within his style. He’s a great coach so I’m really excited for that.”
Purce will hopefully fit into Beard’s system not just as a player, but as a person, a trait that Beard has emphasized all season long as being crucial to building a winning team.
“I think that’s just as important as being on the field, character,” said Purce. “My dad always says person is bigger than the player and I live by that.” Purce smiled at this point. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good player too.”
Purce was notably excited to start a pro career where she didn’t have to split her time between her education and her athletics. “I’m really excited to not have to do homework before my games and focus on soccer,” she said, laughing. “I have never been able to put this much of a focus and this much attention to soccer.”
Having the league as a destination is a big change from when Purce was just starting her college career. “When I was a freshman the only future I could see and aim for was with US Soccer,” she said, “And to have another paradigm to prepare for was weird, and it was amazing, and it was an exciting thing to prepare for.”
The presser grew serious as Purce was asked about the incident with the Harvard men’s soccer team this past season, in which several players were discovered to have written sexually explicit and derogatory messages about players on the Harvard women’s team and that it was an ongoing “tradition.”
“I don’t speak for the rest of the players on my team,” said Purce, “But in terms of moving forward, [what the men’s team did] has nothing to do with me. It doesn’t define me. It is in no way a part of who I am or my legacy at Harvard or anything. So it’s not really a thought on my mind.” She added, with a return to good humor, “I’m all Boston Breakers now.”
Purce did have some thoughts on how the incident came about in the first place in response to being asked how the Ivy League and Harvard could address the problem. “I think it’s bigger than the league. I think it’s bigger than the school. I think that is a world problem that we have right now in the way that we look at women and we allow people to create this really strict and narrow view of how the female body and person can be seen, and how character is overlooked and aesthetics is prioritized. It’s acceptable for us to view and speak about women in very derogatory terms in the locker room or out of the locker room. So I think that’s a bigger problem and that’s something that we as people in the world community need to work on.”
“I don’t think it even invites a response,” she added of the men’s team’s actions. “It doesn’t invite an answer. It was just wrong. I think our Ivy League win this year, if there was a response, that was our kind of ‘Hey. Look.’” (Harvard finished the 2016 season on top of the Ivy League table.)
Looking forward, Purce sounded ready to go right away. “I feel like I have to work twice as hard now,” she said. “It is humbling and it’s an eye-opening moment and it’s showing me that I really need to put the pedal to the medal now and help Boston in any way that I can. Learn my role, and do what’s best.”
To close things out, Purce demonstrated her competitive spirit extends as far down as choosing her twitter handle, “@100Purcent.”
“That is a play on words that I really thought about back in high school,” she said. “My brother and I definitely fought over it for a while. It was rock paper scissors, two out of three. He got the purce-suasion, I got 100 purce-nt.”