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When Melanie Baskind ’12 graduated, it was difficult to imagine how the Harvard women’s soccer and lacrosse teams would cope without the invaluable contributions of the former Harvard Crimson Athlete of the Year.
While Baskind, who led the women’s lacrosse team in assists, is certainly missed on both ends of the field, the Crimson looked to the freshmen, who quickly became a crucial component to the team, to replace her production.
“We were playing a lot of freshmen, but they stepped up when they had to,” captain Micaela Cyr said. “It was definitely a learning experience for them and a learning experience for all of us really.”
The season began with a number of challenges, including road games at then-No. 15 Cornell and then-No. 4 Northwestern, and the Crimson struggled to find a win during its first month of play.
“It was good because I feel like we improved over the season,” Cyr said. “Some of our best games were at the end of our season, and I think we ended really well against Columbia. The season didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but they’re very well set up for next year.”
Cyr, the team’s leading scorer who finished eighth in the Ivy League in points, led a talented attack/midfield unit which was third in the conference in shot percentage at 44.3 percent.
“We shoot the ball pretty well, so I’m pretty comfortable when we come up with the draw control and we’re on attack,” Harvard coach Lisa Miller said.
Freshmen Audrey Todd and Alexis Nicolia together started all but one game, providing consistent offensive intensity for the Crimson. Todd, who was named second team All-Ivy, registered a goal in 12 of 14 contests and had eight hat tricks. Nicolia opened her season at Stanford on Feb. 24 with five goals and nearly tied her career-high at Brown on April 6 with four goals.
“The freshman contribution was invaluable,” Cyr said. “Alexis and Audrey did very well on the offensive end. They just stepped right in and were able to contribute.”
Anchoring the defensive effort were freshmen Isabella Wager and Tory Waldstein. The pair started each game during the season and combined for nine forced turnovers and 20 ground balls.
“I think they did very well considering that they were tossed in and had to perform,” Cyr said. “They did very well considering that they were freshmen.”
Defense was crucial as the team struggled to keep opponents from scoring. Facing the absence of sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Weis, Harvard scrambled to fill the goal. In place of Weis, who had the empty net best save percentage (.474) in the league last season, senior Mel Cook returned to the team to play in 11 contests after a two-year absence. Sophomore Annie Meyjes played in her first four collegiate games, including a career-high 14-save performance at Stanford, while junior Jenn Hatfield, a goalie from the field hockey team, also chipped in on three separate occasions.
When the sharpshooting Crimson team did win, as it did three times, it did so decisively, using speed and athleticism to outmaneuver opponents for possessions. In victories against Marquette, Yale, and Columbia, which were all won by at least five goals, Harvard held a distinctive edge in ground balls.
“The things we talked about in practice everyday—the hustle, the ground balls, the draw controls—those are important because they lead to possessions, and you can’t score without the ball,” Cyr said. “Being good at them is really all about hustling and being free to stick your nose in and being able to take a hit. That was definitely a focus of ours during the season.”
Despite the raw talent shown by Crimson players, the squad did not advance to the four-team Ivy League tournament.
“When I was a freshman, and before that, Harvard lacrosse wasn’t on that national scene, but over the past few years, we’ve been able to raise our game, and our goal is to get back on the national level and do very well,” Cyr said. “I think it’s a very good sign that we’re competing with teams that are nationally ranked. Hopefully next year we’ll get that ranking ourselves.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.
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