Her dreams of attending Columbia University were rooted before she became a soccer star. Once she joined the Lions, Liz Cheung became a double threat -- on the field and in the classroom.
When Columbia soccer standout Liz Cheung was voted first team All-Ivy in 1997 she was only the second Lion woman to earn such a distinction.
The honor was especially poignant for the New York native, who grew up with dreams of attending the prestigious New York City school.
"I think I always knew about Columbia growing up on Long Island," Cheung said. "I remember being very young and my parents showing me an article in the New York Times about Columbia going co-ed and them making a comment about how now I could maybe go there someday."
Cheung began playing soccer at age seven in New Hyde Park and starred in high school for Sacred Heart Academy. Her skills garnered her many scholarship offers, but she ultimately had her sights set on being a Lion.
However, after turning down her other offers and agreeing to play for Columbia, Cheung was surprised to find out that a new coach would be taking over the program just one month before school started.
Former Columbia standout and men's assistant coach Kevin McCarthy was chosen to take over the program from Shawn Ladda for the 1994 season. McCarthy was a member of the 1983 men's team that reached the national championship game. During his tenure as the men's assistant coach from 1988 to 1993, the Lions received four NCAA bids and won the 1993 Ivy League championship.
While initially nervous about the change, Cheung was comforted by McCarthy's excitement, experience and enthusiasm.
"I just had to go with it," Cheung said. "But I remember Kevin called me before I was due to arrive at school and I think I was so nervous I didn't really know what to think, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened."
Cheung started every game at sweeper for the Lions in her four years. She was named second team All-Ivy defense in 1995, honorable mention All-Ivy in 1996 and first team All-Ivy in 1997. She was also twice picked for the All-Northeast Region team and earned Academic All-Ivy status three times.
While Cheung was dominating on the soccer field for the Lions, as well as balancing her school work, she also managed to take advantage of Columbia's New York City locale to gain some memorable work experience.
Cheung worked at CBS sports for four years on the halftime show of NCAA basketball games and eventually went on to cover the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, as a production assistant.
"I think that was one of the best things about Columbia, because of it being located in New York City, there were so many great opportunities," Cheung said.
Cheung's experiences working behind the scenes at major international sporting events provided her with great insight into the first-hand workings of sports entertainment, but ultimately she decided to take another career path.
After graduating from Columbia in 1998, Cheung enrolled at Notre Dame Law School. During her first year of law school, Cheung received another honor for her successful years with the Lions. She was named one of Columbia's representatives for the Ivy League's Silver Anniversary of Women's Athletics Championships all-star soccer team.
Despite her hiatus in South Bend, the Long Island native has made it back to her beloved home state. Cheung has been a litigator with the Jones Day firm in New York City for more than a year. Soccer remains in her life, as she plays for the New York Athletic Club and even went to the National Amateur Championships two years ago. She is also on the soccer advisory committee for Columbia, trying to stay connected to McCarthy and Lions soccer program as much as possible and cherishes all the memories her years at Columbia provided. Her Lions won the Ivy League title last fall.
"It's such a special place given its history and location," Cheung said. "I feel really honored to have played at Columbia."
— Josi Carlson