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Callie Hem, Female Athlete of the Year

Callie Hem works against her Brown defender during a tight matchup.
Callie Hem works against her Brown defender during a tight matchup. By Courtesy of Harvard Athletics
By Luke B. Lawson, Crimson Staff Writer

Nearing the end of the team’s best season in 10 years, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team is ready for the Ivy League tournament. Holding an impressive 10-4 record, the squad seems to have found its groove.

A major part of the Crimson’s success is its powerful offense, as Harvard finished the season with the highest goals per game, assists per game, and percentage of converted shots in the Ivy League. A key piece of the offense, this past season, was senior attacker Callie Hem, who, for her performance this past season, was awarded The Crimson’s title of Female Athlete of the Year.

“We're still kind of that program that's been up and coming. And she's been one of the main catalysts for getting our program to where it is,” said Carole Kleinfelder Head Coach for Harvard Women’s Lacrosse Devon Wills.

A native of Needham, Mass., Hem was an elite high school lacrosse player, earning All-American and Academic All-American honors in 2018 while playing for Needham High School.

Hem has been an immediate asset for Wills and the Crimson upon first taking the field for Harvard, but her path to success has been nontraditional as she encountered a number of challenges at the beginning of her collegiate career. After recovering from an ACL tear that she suffered late in high school, Hem was excited to start her contribution to collegiate lacrosse, but she retore her ACL in her first semester on the team. And, to set back her playing even further, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic kept her sidelined for an entire year. But instead of becoming discouraged by all of her early setbacks, she became more motivated.

“Having COVID just made me realize how much I miss playing,” Hem said.

Her coach underscored the difficulty of Hem’s path to recovery. “Everybody's really admired her resilience in that area, and that she's gone through so much, but was able to come back and be so successful,” Wills said.

As soon as she was finally able to compete for Harvard, she proved herself as an incredible leader and athlete.

“The moment that she was cleared to play she's drawn the top defender from every team. She's a shooting threat, she's a feeding threat, and then just her speed,” Wills added. “She’s really shouldered the burden of drawing that top defender from every team, even at a pretty young age.”

Despite facing difficult one-on-one matchups, Hem still recorded a total of 44 points (34 goals and 10 assists) in her first season. She finished as the highest scorer on the team and was selected as a first-team All-Ivy player.

Hem continued to train and progress, and by the time she was a junior, her scoring abilities and field I.Q. had improved considerably. She recorded an impressive 59 points (43 goals and 16 assists) and was again selected as a first-team All-Ivy player in 2023.

“Her I.Q. has just gotten better and better throughout her time here. She's great at implementing whatever you say. She's really good at seeing it and going to do it,” Wills commented.

This progress has only continued into her senior year.

As the second-highest scorer on the team, Hem improved again on her previous season’s goals and points, racking up 54 goals and 62 points.

Hem started her senior season on a strong note with a career-high seven goals against Colgate on February 17. She continued her scoring prowess in the next two games, pouring in five more against Georgetown on February 24 and then set a new career mark with eight goals against Virginia Commonwealth University the following day.

In the following game against No. 24 Brown on March 2, Hem recorded another five goals, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter. After coming back from a 16-11 deficit in the fourth quarter, Harvard found itself tied with Brown 17-17 with 30 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Hem showed off her lacrosse IQ, making a last-second adjustment to score the game-winner and give the Crimson its first lead of the entire game.

“We had called the timeout. We expected the Brown defense to come out in one thing and they didn't, and within seconds, the whole offense shifted, and Callie cut and scored,” Wills explained.

“I think it showed how hard we had played and how much we believed the entire game that we could win and it accumulated there at the end,” Hem said.

On March 7, Hem was added to the Tewaaraton Watch List, given to the top player in college lacrosse. The top 75 collegiate players are placed on a watch list before it is narrowed down to the top female and male lacrosse players in the country. As a result, making this list is a huge honor and recognition for a player.

“I think sometimes the Ivy League doesn't get as much respect,” Wills said. “So, to finally have her get that recognition for four years of hard work I think that was really important to us, as well as to her.”

“I honestly wasn't really expecting that. So that was definitely a cool surprise. But I also think that was just our team had a really strong start in the beginning of the season, and I think we just had a lot of momentum and there was some outside recognition from that,” Hem reflected.

“I think it's also like a team recognition because they go against her every day in practice. She pushes them, they push her, and I think it's a group effort, as much as it's an individual award,” Wills added.

A couple of days later, on March 12, Harvard was dealt its first loss from a physical Duke team in a close 15-13 game. Instead of backing down from the physicality, Hem used the chance to show how her confidence has grown over the years and used it to fuel her.

“They were specifically very physical with her. And she took their physicality and just turned and put it right back up on the scoreboard against them,” Wills said.

For the remainder of the season, the Crimson only fell to No. 15 Penn, No. 10 Yale, and No. 18 Princeton in an overtime defeat. It dominated High Point University, Dartmouth, Merrimack College, Cornell, Stonehill College, and Columbia.

Throughout the season Hem has continued to prove her incredible offensive capabilities.

Hem “realizes just how talented she is. And she realizes that nobody can really mark her,” Wills stated.

Not only is Hem a leader on the field, but she has also grown into a crucial behind-the-scenes leader off the field.

“Callie is not the loudest person. She's got a lot of really good things to say, but she focuses more on that one-on-one connection, as opposed to being that loud voice. But I think that's where she's been able to connect with a lot of different people on our team,” Wills said.

As Harvard prepares for its upcoming game against No. 8 Yale, Hem is focused on winning an Ivy League title while simultaneously getting the most out of her remaining time with the team.

“Individually, I would just say, because it's my last season, to not have any regrets,” Hem said about her goals for this year. “I know it's not going to last forever. So just enjoy every moment and play as hard as I can.”

Hem has made her mark on Harvard Women’s Lacrosse as an incredible offensive power on the field while remaining humble, enthusiastic, and encouraging on the sidelines. Hem isn’t sure what’s next for her in life, but she is confident that she will continue to be involved in the sport somehow.

”It's been one of the best experiences of my life. I will always look back on it with a ton of positivity and just gratitude for everything that I was able to experience here.”

—Staff writer Luke Lawson can be reached at

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