2011 was a big year in Harvard athletics. Women’s soccer captured its third Ivy League championship in four years. The men’s basketball team took home a share of the Ancient Eight title and entered the nation’s Top 25, both firsts in program history. Football set a modern-era program record for points in a season, scoring 374 points en route to a 9-1 finish and a league crown. Four other teams—men’s fencing, men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, and softball—also finished 2011 on top of the Ivy League standings.
There were a number of standout individual performances as well. Women’s fencer Alexandra Kiefer captured the NCAA Foil Individual title. Men’s basketball forward Keith Wright became just the second player in Harvard history to take home Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Women’s soccer and lacrosse captain Melanie Baskind was named to the First Team All-Ivy in two different sports and was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer.
We at The Back Page have taken on the tall task of determining the best Harvard athlete of 2011. Here’s how it will go down: we’ve selected 16 standout Harvard athletes—eight male and eight female—and set up two single elimination brackets. Each round, Harvard’s finest will square off in head-to-head matchups. And based on their performances in 2011, we will determine who advances and who is eliminated until just one male and one female remain. Then, the two champs will square off to determine the top Harvard athlete of 2011.
Over the weekend, we revealed the winners of the women's quarterfinals, and we now turn to the seminfinals, where lacrosse’s Jennifer VanderMeulen takes on Melanie Baskind of the soccer and lacrosse teams. We round it out with skier Rebecca Nadler against fencer Alexandra Kiefer.
The Baskind-VanderMeulen matchup pits two of the Ivy League’s most fearsome offensive threats against each other. VanderMeulen, who led the Ivy League in scoring on the lacrosse pitch, earned All-Ivy honors for the second straight year.
But the winner of this matchup is VanderMeulen’s captain. Baskind not only led the Ivy League in scoring on the soccer field, she was also All-Ivy in lacrosse.
Winner: Mel Baskind
Alexandra Kiefer vs. Rebecca Nadler
Nadler set out on a unique path for her team in 2011, becoming the program's first NCAA qualifier. Considering only two Ivy League schools were represented, that is an impressive feat in itself. Add her international performances for Canada, and it was a wonderful start to a Harvard career for the sophomore
But Kiefer won an individual national title in addition to other impressive tournament victories throughout her rookie season. Nadler is the best on her team, but Kiefer’s the best in the country. That gives the fencer the edge.
Winner: Alexandra Kiefer