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Sports Person of the Week
Haskins Holds the Line on Defense
Junior defender Grace Haskins used her speed to slow down opposing offenses, but also played other positions when the Warriors needed her to. (Photo courtesy of Grace Haskins)
Grace Haskins can do it all for the Valley Regional girls’ lacrosse squad. Grace, who recently completed her junior season, made herself into a versatile player who can fill any role that Head Coach Randy Netsch needs on the field.
This spring, Grace helped build a foundation for a Warriors’ team that was in rebuilding mode after losing its 2020 campaign.
Grace will remember 2021 season for a long time because of the camaraderie that the Warriors formed. While team didn’t have a lot of depth, Valley’s athletes crafted a bond that will sustain them for years to come.
“The biggest thing that I’ll look back on is how the team grew together,” Grace says. “We have a really small team, but in a way that was great, maybe even better than being on a big team. We really grew together, and that was really nice.”
After missing out on the 2020 spring season due to COVID-19, the Warriors had to evaluate where they stood in terms of talent and experience this year. Several seniors had graduated from the 2019 team, so there were plenty of new faces stepping into different positions. Grace feels that she and her teammates did a good job of adapting.
“This year, I really think it was our base year to figure out our lineup and where our strengths were as a team, but by the end of the season, we really figured that out,” says Grace. “We all got a hold on our positions, and I have really high hopes next year. The majority of our team was juniors this year, and we’re only going to graduate two seniors. So, I have really high hopes for next year.”
Grace slotted in at several positions this season, but most of her playing time came on the defensive end of the field. Grace feels that her biggest strengths are on defense, but she is always willing to do whatever is necessary in order for the Warriors to field the best team possible.
“I play defense, but I was really utilized throughout all positions. I played attack and midfield as well. I just went wherever Coach Netsch needed me. I spent the majority of the season playing defense, and that’s where I got most of my playing time,” Grace says “The main thing that I do is get close-up on someone since I’m pretty fast. I’m able to get up with the faster kids on the other team, and I can face guard, too. I’m also good at re-defending. If there’s a turnover, I try to get down the field and make it harder for them to make it to the goal.”
Grace has several years of experience playing lacrosse. Grace’s mother Megan coached her at an early age and helped Grace develop a love for the sport. Grace’s sister Caroline, who was also a junior this year, has a lot of experience playing lacrosse and currently manages the Valley squad.
“I’ve been playing lacrosse since I was in kindergarten. It’s always been a big part of my life, since I’ve been playing so long,” says Grace, who lives in Essex. “When I was in kindergarten, my mom actually coached my kindergarten team. She really got me into it. Ever since then, I’ve been really in love with the sport.”
When Grace knew that her 2020 season would be lost because of COVID, she wanted to make sure that she didn’t lose a step on the lacrosse field. Grace started a running regiment and also kept up her stick-handling drills with her family.
“I really made an effort to stay in shape by running around five days a week,” Grace says. “I wanted to keep my stick skills up, so I would practice with my mom, my sister, and my cousin. A lot of people play in my family, as well, so I had a lot of people to pass with.”
Coach Netsch has had a huge influence on Grace’s career. In addition to coaching her in lacrosse, Netsch is also an assistant coach of the Valley field hockey team, for which Grace also plays. Coach Netsch was responsible for the founding the Valley girls’ lacrosse program, and Grace will always feel grateful for everything that he’s done for both her and the Warriors as a whole.
“I want to thank Coach Netsch for being supportive and always believing in me as a player. He started the lacrosse the program at Valley,” says Grace. “He’s also the assistant field hockey coach. I’ve gotten to know him as a person, and he’s just a really great coach. He really cares about every one of his players.”
In turn, Coach Netsch says that Grace has made a big impact on the Warriors with her tenacious defense and overall versatility as a lacrosse player.
“Grace is a strong defender for several reasons. First, because of her speed, she is able to defend the opponent’s quickest attackers when they have the ball and are transitioning out of their defensive end. This slows the opponent’s attack down, so our defense can set up, and it prevents fast-breaks,” Netsch says. “She is also able to react quickly in our defensive set. This makes Grace excellent in one-on-one matchups, as well as sliding to help a fellow defender. Grace is also comfortable in the midfield and has good ball control in the offensive end of the field. This versatility is a great asset when a midfielder needs a break or if there is an injury.”
It was a rewarding experience for Grace to get back out on the lacrosse field this spring. Missing out the 2020 season was a frustrating situation, but Grace feels reinvigorated by playing for the Warriors this year. Now, she can’t wait to see what the future brings in her senior season.
“I was so excited coming into this season, because we missed out on last season. I was looking forward to just being on the field with the team again. It was nice to be able to practice again and play in games. I think it was kind of a relief for everyone to be able to have a season,” says Grace. “The Valley girls’ lacrosse team is not only hard-working, but also very inclusive. We all became such good friends this year.”