The Back Page's Athlete of 2011, Round 1: Baskind v. Tassopoulos

Published by Martin Kessler and Juliet Spies-Gans on January 13, 2012 at 10:12PM

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.

This morning we featured the matchup between Jennifer VanderMeulen and Bonnie Hu. Now, in our final matchup on the women’s side, we have soccer’s Mel Baskind against field hockey’s Cynthia Tassopoulos.

Midfielder Melanie Baskind—28 goals, six assists, 33 groundballs (lacrosse) and eight goals, eight assists (soccer).

Being named to one All-Ivy First Team in a year is impressive. Being named to two is a whole other story. A captain of both the women’s lacrosse and soccer teams, Baskind had an unforgettable 2011. After joining the lacrosse team as a sophomore in 2010, Baskind returned to the lacrosse pitch for her second season with the Crimson this past spring. She finished fourth on the team in goals (28), second in assists (six), first in ground balls (33), and second in draw controls (24), helping the Crimson to a 5-2 Ivy record—its best conference finish since 1994.

Just four months later, Baskind turned in her lacrosse stick for a pair of soccer cleats. In her final season with the Harvard soccer team, Baskind led the Crimson to its third Ivy League title in four years, posting eight goals and eight assists and tying for tops in the conference with 24 points. After the season, the senior was unanimously selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year, making her the only Harvard athlete to be named to two All-Ivy First Teams in 2011.

Goalkeeper Cynthia Tassopoulos – .806 save percentage, 154 saves, 1180 minutes in goal

The Harvard field hockey played 1203 minutes in 2011. For 1180 of those, junior Cynthia Tassopoulos stood between the pipes. In that time, the goalkeeper saved 80.6 percent of shots that came her way, the best mark in the Ivy League and the fourth best in the nation. Tassopoulos’ dominance in the goal helped the Crimson this year to its best record since 2007.

In just the 2011 season alone, Tassopoulos had 154 saves, which by itself would be enough to rank her ninth on Harvard’s all-time list of career saves. In her three-year career, Tassopoulos now has 420 saves, good for fourth all-time. With one year left to play, Tassopoulos is only 14 saves away from taking the number three spot.

Despite her strong 2011 performance, Tassopoulos only received an honorable mention in the 2011 All-Ivy honors, a year after earning a second-team All-Ivy nod in what was a statistically worse season.