Crimson Rookies Support Soccer
With the departure of Katherine Sheeleigh and the Class of 2010, I was unsure what to expect this season as a new beat writer for Harvard women’s soccer.
It was the start of a new era, one that reminded me of last September when I was covering men’s soccer. The class of 2009 had been one of the strongest in recent memory, featuring Andre Akpan, who was the best senior in the country that year. Though Sheeleigh does not boast Akpan’s stats, both alums finished their careers as Ivy League Player of the Year and were vital to their teams’ offenses. Any team that loses that kind of talent inevitably will have to rebuild.
After a year watching men’s soccer, I knew that rebuilding a team is no easy task. But I did have hope—co-captain Melanie Baskind is still on the team, and her veteran presence in the offense is something that her male counterparts lacked last year in the front line. In 2010, Baskind tied Sheeleigh for the team lead in goals scored with nine, and the then-junior amassed 22 points, trailing her former captain by three points. Baskind is also no stranger to accolades, earning Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2008 and landing on the All-Ivy first team after an impressive 2010 campaign. Like Sheeleigh last year, Baskind is currently in the running for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award.
Though it is still too early to say definitively that Harvard has recovered from losing five seniors from last year’s squad—especially since all of its wins have been determined by just one goal—the team is moving in the right direction, and its new talent has been critical to the Crimson’s 3-1 record, its best start since 2001.
From the very first game, two rookies have stood out thanks to precocious performances: Meg Casscells-Hamby and Lauren Urke. Casscells-Hamby, the 2011 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year, has solidified her position as one of two primary playmakers (the other being Baskind) for Harvard. In the matchup against Long Island, the rookie played a role in sophomore Peyton Johnson’s goal to tie the match at one. She also perfectly timed a through ball to Baskind in the contest with Elon to give the Crimson the advantage.
Urke has done the same, but she’s done it all the way from the back line. The defender has shown a propensity to take the ball down the right flank and either cross a dangerous ball in the box or take a shot herself. Her offensive efforts paid off in Sunday’s win over UConn, scoring the first goal of the match and adding an assist later in the contest. She also earned recognition on Monday as the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week.
The two aren’t the only freshmen contributors—two others, Kate Makaroff and Erika Garcia, have also seen significant playing time and are slowly finding a niche for themselves in the offense.
DON’T USE YOUR HEAD
Last year, Harvard coach Ray Leone had to recruit walk-on Mari Zumbro, utility player on the Harvard softball team, because of the team’s lack of healthy goalkeepers. Four games have been played this season, and already three of the Crimson’s listed four goalies have sustained injuries that have kept them out of recent games.
On Sunday, Leone called upon rookie Cheta Emba to protect the Harvard goal after sophomore Jessica Wright took a hit on the head and needed to be taken to the hospital to check for a concussion. The goalkeeper with the most minutes this season, junior AJ Millet, was already out after getting kicked in the head in the Crimson’s 2-1 win against UMass, and freshman Bethany Kanten is still recovering from a shoulder injury.
I guess one question that pops to mind is: will another walk-on be needed again? Who knows.
But a head injury is nothing to take lightly. After reading about the dangers of concussions, it is important for coaches to warn their players about sacrificing their heads in order to make a play.
It starts with practice, and emphasizing the proper techniques to avoid head trauma. Sometimes concussions are inevitable, but athletes must take every precaution to avoid them.
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.