March 17, 2010

Baskind's Return to Lacrosse Timely for Harvard

by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Melanie Baskind, the 2008 Ivy League Rookie of the Year in soccer and a former two-time high school lacrosse All-American, has rediscovered lacrosse in the nick of time for Harvard -- helping shore up the Crimson midfield minus Jess Halpern.

© Harvard

Melanie Baskind didn’t bring her stick or goggles to school, and it wasn’t until after her second straight All-Ivy League soccer season that the Harvard sophomore decided to join the Crimson women’s lacrosse team.

“I didn’t even mention it in my end-of-the-year meeting with my soccer coach,” said Baskind, the 2008 soccer Ivy Rookie of the Year. “It was after soccer season ended when I decided to play again. We had down time and I was running, and it wouldn’t really leave my head. It was in my head while I was working out. My parents, everyone, was surprised when I told them.”

Not Lisa Miller.

The third-year Harvard head coach had seen Baskind play in high school, where she led nearby Framingham (Mass.) High to back-to-back state championships on her way to being named the Boston Globe Athlete of the Year in 2008.

“We talked about it last year,” Miller said. “She said she might play this year. I was hoping after a year of settling in and getting to know the soccer kids, she’d consider it. I think she has the potential to make U.S. lacrosse and play long-term.”

Baskind’s addition to the Crimson lacrosse program became even more important after they lost Jess Halpern to a season-ending injury in the second game of the season, a 15-10 loss to Johns Hopkins. Halpern led the Ivies in goals and points per game last season and was named to the Tewaaraton Award List this year. The junior attacker was leading the Crimson in caused turnovers and draw controls and was second in ground balls.

“It hurts,” Miller said. “I feel like we have a good young group and I think they’re going to be really good. I think it hurts us more than anything in the middle of the field. Our clearing percentage is down. I think we relied on her to do a lot of the work.”

Without Halpern, Harvard is down to just three seniors and one junior. Baskind is trying to help in the midfield.

“Being so young, without her we lose a lot of the leadership on the field,” Baskind said. “Being a year and a half removed, it was good to watch her. I’m grateful I had a couple weeks with her. It’s a team effort picking up the slack for her.”

Nine freshmen, led by Jennifer VanderMeulen, who leads the team in scoring, are on the roster, and Baskind is one of seven sophomores, though she’s more like a freshman.

“I consider myself a freshman a lot of the time,” said Baskind, a two-time All-America in high school. “I try to milk that I’m a freshman when I make mistakes. It’s been tough getting back to where I was. It’s a lot faster and there’s a lot more structure than high school.

“I’m learning every day and learning about the game and the technical stuff. Everybody has been great about helping me out, no matter what year they are.”

Baskind, second in scoring behind VanderMeulen going into Wednesday’s game against No. 7 Boston University, has shown flashes for the Crimson. In overtime, she went one-on-one to notch the game-winner in an upset of then-No. 15 New Hampshire, the highest ranked team they have beaten since a 9-8 win over No. 18 Johns Hopkins in the 2002 season finale.

“It was a great win,” said Baskind, who has six goals and an assist. “I feel like I was not even that person in high school. It’s one of those situations where you have to step up. If I didn’t make it, I’d still be feeling terrible.”

Harvard also defeated Massachusetts, which reached last year’s NCAA tournament, in the season opener. The Crimson lost its Ivy opener to No. 5 Penn, 16-6, but hopes despite its youth to be in contention for one of the four spots in the first Ivy League tournament. Last year, the Crimson were sixth, one spot out of a tie for fourth place.

“I do think it’s a realistic goal,” Miller said. “At the same time, we’re really young. I’d like a little more depth. You build things. In another year, Harvard lacrosse will have depth. Right now, we’re so thin we have to be careful.”

It’s why adding another player, particularly one with Baskind’s potential, was a no-brainer, even if she had hardly touched a stick in almost two years.

“She has big-game experience in soccer,” Miller said. “The soccer team is very good. They’ve won Ivy championships and been to the NCAAs. That’s the thing about dual-sport athletes. They’re pretty seasoned by the time you get them. So one, she has the experience. Two, she has a competitive mindset and make-up. That in itself has helped our program a lot.”

That reason, as much as anything, brought Baskind back.

“It’s a desire to compete,” Baskind said. “I went to a lot of the games last year. I definitely missed it. Looking back, it was the right decision to not play. I don’t regret not playing last year, but I would have if I didn’t this year.

“It’s been good so far,” she added. “I’m really enjoying it.”

Ivy League Women's Notes

Brown broke from its usual brown-and-white look when it took on Princeton in specially designed purple jerseys. It was a show of support for Lacrosse for Lupus project that is chaired by junior midfielder Paris Waterman, whose mother was recently diagnosed with Lupus. Sophomore Julia Keller designed the jerseys, which were auctioned off after the game. Online donations can be made to Waterman scored three goals in the 16-6 loss to Princeton... Gabrielle Geronimos’ production jumped considerably from freshman to sophomore year for Columbia, and she’s off to a big start to another increase as a junior. She has stepped in for all-time leading scorer Holly Glynn, who graduated, to become the top scorer for the Lions with 11 goals and one assist. Last year, Geronimos led the team with 12 assists. Now she leads the Ivy League in goals... Cornell is looking to pick up momentum as it heads into what has traditionally been its toughest stretch of the year. The Big Red plays at Harvard on Saturday before traveling to Florida next week then taking on the top three Ivy teams of a year ago – Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth in succession. Last year, Cornell was 5-1 before falling to the Ancient Eight trio. It is 2-3 this season... After seeing its 15-game winning streak against New Hampshire ended in the season opener, a disappointing start for a team that returns 11 starters, Dartmouth has responded with a pair of impressive wins. The Big Green defeated Vermont, 22-2, before winning, 12-8, at then-No. 8 Notre Dame, the only loss in the first four games for the Fighting Irish. Next is a date with Syracuse, a team the Big Green has lost to in each of the past two seasons... Emily Szelest is back at it for Penn. The reigning NCAA goals against average leader from last year, the senior goalie has lowered her GAA this year to 6.44 in a 6-5 win over Hofstra and 16-6 win over Harvard that earned her Ivy Defensive Player of the Week. The Quakers look to extend their Ivy unbeaten streak to 24 games when they play at Yale on Saturday... Princeton has emphasized draw controls this season and has seen strong results in the early going. The Tigers had a 16-9 advantage against Rutgers, a 14-9 edge Johns Hopkins and a 15-9 edge against Brown. Duke, though, held a 12-9 advantage in Princeton’s biggest loss of the season. The Tigers sit second in the Ivies at 13.50 draw controls per game. The Tigers have used Kaitlyn Perrelle to replace Tewaaraton Watch List goalie Erin Tochihara twice this season. Perrelle has better goals against and save percentage averages... Yale’s offense continues to be a work in progress. Its 9-5 loss to UMass was the first time the Bulldogs shot better than 40 percent in a game, but they only took eight shots while making five. They followed it up with nine goals on 21 shots in a 9-8 win over Marist. The play of second-year starter Whitney Quackenbush has carried the Bulldogs. The sophomore goalie saved five of six free positions against Marist.

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