Jane Alexander returns from injury to anchor the Crimson infield
Although the Harvard softball team only graduated two seniors from last year’s squad, sophomore Jane Alexander feels like she’s stepping into a much larger void.
Bailey Vertovez ’09, a co-captain last season, was one of the Crimson’s most versatile players, seeing time at shortstop, pitcher, and in the outfield. While Alexander will be expected to primarily play shortstop, she still feels the responsibility that comes with entering into a role previously held by such a seasoned veteran as Vertovez.
“You can’t fill Bailey’s role. She was such a great player and such a great team leader,” Alexander says. “Having a huge senior class helps with some of the pressure, though. Having them means that I don’t have a huge role to fill on the leadership side, but I think that the team has decided as one to all step up and take a leadership role.”
Even though Alexander will begin her first full season as a starter, she has been around this block before. She arrived at Harvard as a highly-touted freshman and was expected to get significant playing time alongside Vertovez. But Alexander suffered tendonitis in her wrist last October and battled with it throughout the fall before facing a decision in the winter to either get surgery immediately or delay it until the summer.
She decided to forego the operation until the summer, but was plagued by injuries throughout the season and wasn’t able to contribute at the level she and the team were expecting. She had cortisone shots in January 2009 to see if that would help anything, but Alexander acknowledges she may have played through the injury more than she should have, and as a result her injuries persisted throughout the season.
“Jane had some inconsistency last year because of the injury she suffered that was very distracting to her wrist and hands, but I think that she has really gotten herself to a good place both physically and mentally,” Harvard coach Jenny Allard says. “She’s made huge strides this fall, and we’re really expecting her to just settle in and get a lot of experience and confidence. “
Entering an infield that is expected to be one of the best in the Ivy League will help Alexander gain experience early and get comfortable with her new role.
“We’re a veteran infield, and the best thing I can do is just to make sure that that infield stays solid,” Alexander says. “The best thing that I can contribute is just to make sure that nothing gets through our infield, and that we’re going to be the best infield in the Ivy League.”
While missing a full year of softball was frustrating for the sophomore, she succeeded in turning her injury into an opportunity to find new ways to help her team.
“I had never been out for that long in my life, and being out for that long makes you realize how much you really love the game,” Alexander explains. “We’re not in it for money, we’re not going to play professionally, we’re just in it because we love what we do.”
Alexander’s love for the team truly blossomed when she was faced with the task of not showing disappointment at her injury and instead doing everything she could to help from the bench—putting an emphasis on making sure the bench was impacting the game. Whether it was letting the fielders know a runner was stealing, or making sure that everyone was excited, or helping players get hits, Alexander was able to realize the ways she could contribute to the team even without her bat and glove.
“She really ties everybody together,” senior Dana Roberts says. “She’s constantly checking in with everybody and making sure everybody is on the same page. You really feel her presence out there and know that she’s a strong leader.”
Although Alexander is eagerly awaiting the chance to take her leadership skills to the field after losing a year, she’s more interested in helping the team than proving to herself that she can do what was expected of her.
“Missing one year of your only four left to play is a big chunk. I definitely want to come out and play as well as I possibly can,” Alexander says. “Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself, and that’s why I played through the injury. This year I want to be there for my team, not for myself. I want to play for the Harvard Crimson and not for anything I think I should be doing.”
Despite being limited in her experience on the field, Alexander used the time during her injury to develop what initially brought her to Harvard: her love for the team atmosphere that surrounds Crimson softball.
During her recruitment, Alexander was set on Stanford until she visited Cambridge. After seeing how tightly knit the softball team was, she immediately knew that Harvard was the place she wanted to play. Now, she has the perfect opportunity to bring together her leadership, vocal presence, and on-the-field skills to contribute to the softball team in a unique way.
“Jane is a natural at shortstop—she knows the ball, knows the game, and moves well,” Allard said. “She really has some strong gifts, and we feel that she’s really ready to step up this year.”