Young Team Blossoming Into Ivy Contender

Ten fresh faces plus a cast of seasoned veterans could equal a shot at the NCAA Tournament

All for one
Meredith H. Keffer

The Harvard women's lacrosse team kicks off its 2010 season tomorrow looking to shake things up in a competitive Ivy League. Will a few key returnees and 10 talented new athletes, the squad will look to move up in the standings this season.

Netting a goal in the final second of its last game of the 2009 season, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team ended things with a bang, capturing a 9-8 win over Boston College. The victory capped off a rollercoaster of a season, as the team experienced exciting upsets and many tough losses. The Crimson wrapped up the season 6-10 overall and 2-5 in the Ivy League.

Although a rollercoaster can provide thrills, Harvard hopes for a steadier performance this year, beginning with its first game tomorrow at UMass in Amherst.

Despite the loss of three players to graduation, the team has replenished its ranks, taking on 10 new ones.

“The class of 2009 was a great class and really helped us through the coaching change and every other system change,” co-captain Delia Pais said. “But we’ve now added a very strong freshman class, so their loss is not something we can’t overcome. [The seniors] were helpful, but we’ve been trying to build a structure that survives graduation and brings in a new class ready to take up the mantle of the team.”

In addition to a wave of freshmen, the 2010 season will see the debut of sophomore midfielder Melanie Baskind. Already a talented soccer player, the team is eager to see what she’ll bring to the lacrosse field.

Although the Crimson has many new faces, the team will receive a lot of support from its returning players. Pais returns after a very strong junior season, in which she led the team with 29 ground balls and caused 13 turnovers. Pais’ fellow co-captain, attack Sara Flood, notched 16 assists and 32 draw controls, both team highs.

Another key contributor will be junior midfielder Jess Halpern. In her sophomore season, Halpern was named the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Week twice and earned a spot on the All-Ivy First Team.

A large share of the offensive responsibility will also fall on sophomore Tyler Petropulos, who finished last season third on the team with 23 goals while tying Pais’ top mark of 29 ground balls.

Harvard coach Lisa Miller believes that the addition of new players will build depth and take pressure off of players like Petropulos.

“I think that this year we’re going to have breaks where [Petropulos] can take breaks on attack and defensively,” Miller said. “We have depth—she’s not going to have to carry as much of the load as she did last year.”

Also contributing to a deeper roster is the presence of two game-tested goalies—senior Katherine Martino and sophomore Kerry Clark, who is also a Crimson news editor. Miller plans to play both goalies between the pipes based on the opponent at hand.

“I think that they both have a different style, so depending on our opponent, that’s the way it will work out,” Miller said.

To prepare for its season, the Crimson has been focusing on improving the fundamentals of the game—little things that, according to Flood, cost the team wins in the past.

“We had a couple of games last year where we potentially could’ve had a few more wins, but we got off track in terms of the fundamentals, and that put us in a hole,” she said.

The co-captain further stressed the importance of mastering the basic elements of the game.

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