In 2011, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team surrendered 10.25 goals per game, fourth best in the Ivy League. In one year’s time, the Crimson cut that average to 7.81, giving it the fifth best defense in the nation.
Part of Harvard’s success on defense can be explained by the addition of freshman goaltender Kelly Weis, who displayed a natural ability to coordinate the Crimson defense. The rookie finished the year with a .474 save percentage, second best in the Ivy League and 14th best in the country.
Weis was recognized for her performance this year by receiving an honorable mention to the All-Ivy team.
“Kelly is an amazing goalie,” junior attacker Jennifer VanderMeulen says. “She just stepped right on to the field and took the role as leader of the defense early on. Normally it takes a while to get acclimated to the college game, but Kelly just kind of eased right in and transitioned beautifully.”
“The level of her play and the intensity she brought, especially in close games, led to the number of close games we won,” co-captain Melanie Baskind echoes. “[The defense’s success] wouldn’t have happened without her.”
According to her teammates, one of the keys to Weis’ success was her ability to communicate with her teammates.
“She knows what to say and when to say it,” VanderMeulen says. “Everyone on the defensive end listened to her. The way she is able to direct the defense is huge. It helped us improve defensively 100 percent.”
After some early season struggles, Harvard was able to turn its season around thanks in large part to the play of Weis and the rest of the defense. In the Crimson’s final three Ivy League regular season matchups, Weis stopped 22 of the 36 shots she faced.
“She just comes up with big saves,” Baskind says. “Every time you think it’s an open net and it’s going to be an easy goal for the other team, she comes out of nowhere and makes the save. She also forces teams to shoot less by making them think more.”
After Weis’ strong freshman campaign, the Crimson will look to the goalie to continue to anchor its defense for the next three seasons.
“She didn’t play like a freshman, which is what we needed,” Baskind says. “I am so excited to see what she will accomplish in the future.”
—Staff writer Cameron Dowd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.