Photo of Melanie Baskind courtesy of Kevin Burns.
Melanie Baskind didn’t bring her stick or goggles to
school, and it wasn’t until after her second straight All-Ivy
League soccer season that the Harvard sophomore decided to join the
Crimson women’s lacrosse team.
“I didn’t even mention it in my end-of-the-year meeting with my soccer coach,” said Baskind, the 2008 soccer Ivy Rookie of the Year. “It was after soccer season ended when I decided to play again. We had down time and I was running, and it wouldn’t really leave my head. It was in my head while I was working out. My parents, everyone, was surprised when I told them.”
Not Lisa Miller.
The third-year Harvard head coach had seen Baskind play in high
school, where she led nearby Framingham (Mass.) High to
back-to-back state championships on her way to being named the
Boston Globe Athlete of the Year in 2008.
“We talked about it last year,” Miller said. “She said she might play this year. I was hoping after a year of settling in and getting to know the soccer kids, she’d consider it. I think she has the potential to make U.S. lacrosse and play long-term.”
Baskind’s addition to the Crimson lacrosse program became even more important after they lost Jess Halpern to a season-ending injury in the second game of the season, a 15-10 loss to Johns Hopkins. Halpern led the Ivies in goals and points per game last season and was named to the Tewaaraton Award List this year. The junior attacker was leading the Crimson in caused turnovers and draw controls and was second in ground balls.
“It hurts,” Miller said. “I feel like we have a good young group and I think they’re going to be really good. I think it hurts us more than anything in the middle of the field. Our clearing percentage is down. I think we relied on her to do a lot of the work.”
Without Halpern, Harvard is down to just three seniors and one junior. Baskind is trying to help in the midfield.
“Being so young, without her we lose a lot of the leadership on the field,” Baskind said. “Being a year and a half removed, it was good to watch her. I’m grateful I had a couple weeks with her. It’s a team effort picking up the slack for her.”
Nine freshmen, led by Jennifer VanderMeulen, who leads the team in scoring, are on the roster, and Baskind is one of seven sophomores, though she’s more like a freshman.
“I consider myself a freshman a lot of the time,” said Baskind, a two-time All-America in high school. “I try to milk that I’m a freshman when I make mistakes. It’s been tough getting back to where I was. It’s a lot faster and there’s a lot more structure than high school.
“I’m learning every day and learning about the game and the technical stuff. Everybody has been great about helping me out, no matter what year they are.”
Baskind, second in scoring behind VanderMeulen going into
Wednesday’s game against No. 7 Boston University, has shown
flashes for the Crimson. In overtime, she went one-on-one to notch
the game-winner in an upset of then-No. 15 New Hampshire, the
highest ranked team they have beaten since a 9-8 win over No. 18
Johns Hopkins in the 2002 season finale.
“It was a great win,” said Baskind, who has six goals and an assist. “I feel like I was not even that person in high school. It’s one of those situations where you have to step up. If I didn’t make it, I’d still be feeling terrible.”
Harvard also defeated Massachusetts, which reached last year’s NCAA tournament, in the season opener. The Crimson lost its Ivy opener to No. 5 Penn, 16-6, but hopes despite its youth to be in contention for one of the four spots in the first Ivy League tournament. Last year, the Crimson were sixth, one spot out of a tie for fourth place.
“I do think it’s a realistic goal,” Miller said. “At the same time, we’re really young. I’d like a little more depth. You build things. In another year, Harvard lacrosse will have depth. Right now, we’re so thin we have to be careful.”
It’s why adding another player, particularly one with Baskind’s potential, was a no-brainer, even if she had hardly touched a stick in almost two years.
“She has big-game experience in soccer,” Miller said. “The soccer team is very good. They’ve won Ivy championships and been to the NCAAs. That’s the thing about dual-sport athletes. They’re pretty seasoned by the time you get them. So one, she has the experience. Two, she has a competitive mindset and make-up. That in itself has helped our program a lot.”
That reason, as much as anything, brought Baskind back.
“It’s a desire to compete,” Baskind said. “I went to a lot of the games last year. I definitely missed it. Looking back, it was the right decision to not play. I don’t regret not playing last year, but I would have if I didn’t this year.
“It’s been good so far,” she added. “I’m really enjoying it.”