Sports » Women's Soccer
Winning is in freshman forward Tyler Lussi’s genes. Gustave Lussi, Tyler’s great-great-grandfather, is considered to be one of figure skating’s greatest trainers — he coached 16 world champions and seven Olympic gold medalists. In 2007, her younger brother Hunter, inspired by the Ironman races that their parents run, became the youngest person in the world to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run at age 13.
But Lussi refuses to be outdone by anyone in her family. The forward from Maryland currently leads the women’s soccer team in goals with six, twice the total of the next highest scorer, and has scored three game-winning goals this season. With her two assists factored in, Lussi is second in the Ivy League in points with 14, and she has been awarded Ivy League Rookie of the Week twice already.
When Lussi started playing sports as a child, however, no one would have guessed she would become the goal-scoring machine she is today for the Tigers. Her parents got her to try playing almost every sport — so many that she says her friends called her house “Camp Lussi.”
“I kind of had to do a little bit of everything, but I stuck with soccer,” Lussi said.
Even when she began playing with the Bethesda Soccer Club in Maryland, she didn’t start out finding the back of the net.
“When I started out at Bethesda when I was seven years old, I started as a center back, because I was really good at anticipating the ball,” Lussi said. “I played that for five years or so. I was probably one of the smallest, skinnier girls on the team.”
In 2006 she was invited to participate in the Olympic Development Program, where young players exhibited their skills for coaches around the country. Lussi said everyone who saw her play was shocked that she was playing on the defensive side.
“They all said, ‘No, you need to go play forward. No way can you play center back,’ ” Lussi said.
So Lussi’s coach started moving her up. She moved from center back to defensive center mid; then she played wide for a while and moved to attacking center mid again before finally ending up at the top of the field at forward.
“My coach told me that usually you start as a forward and then you go back, but I went the other way,” Lussi said.
Her time with Bethesda mattered the most to Lussi during her pre-collegiate soccer career — she has only ever played one year of high school varsity soccer, when she was a freshman. After that, she decided not to continue because she didn’t want to risk being injured and miss playing games for her club. It ended up being a smart choice for Lussi: She garnered attention at a national level, with Top Drawer Soccer ranking her as a four-star recruit.
But long before the women’s soccer coaches at Princeton had Lussi on their radar, Lussi was already scouting Princeton. Both her maternal grandfather and great-grandfather attended Princeton, and Lussi knew that was what she wanted.
“Ever since I was like, five, I heard stories about Princeton, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to go here,’ ” she said.
Lussi also considered team camaraderie as part of her decision.
“When I was here at Princeton I said, ‘This is perfect; this is what I want.’ The team is so close,” she said.
On the field, Lussi’s chemistry with junior forward Lauren Lazo is nearly perfect. For the first five games of the Tigers’ season, the duo combined to score every single one of Princeton’s goals.
“I think we work really well up top together,” Lussi said. “We’re always going for the ball, and we’re always going to go hard into tackles.”
Lussi has a real chance of breaking the 32-year-old program record for goals in a season by a freshman, set by Sue Mooney ’85. With nine regular-season games left, Lussi needs eight more goals to break the record of 13, but she says her sights are set on something bigger — she’s chasing the NCAA Championship.
“I’m very intense. What I really want to do is win the College Cup,” she said. “That’s what I’m really striving to do. Coming in as a freshman, it’s just kind of hard to get that message across, and I think that by showing them how hard I work and my determination, I think that down the line we’ll get across to them because I think that would be awesome. Why not have an Ivy League — why not have Princeton — win the College Cup? And I think I know what it takes to get there.”
Lussi will continue trying to set the Tigers on that path on Tuesday, when Princeton (4-3-3 overall, 0-2 Ivy League) takes on Brown at 4 p.m. in Providence in search of its first Ivy League victory.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated the record of the women’s soccer team at the time. They were 4-3-3. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.