Q&A with Ainsley Baker
Redshirt sophomore Ainsley Baker scored a career-high five goals, including the game-winner, in Virginia’s 13-12 overtime victory over No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday. Baker’s efforts resulted in her being named the ACC and WomensLax.com Player of the Week.
Baker will look to help the Cavaliers in two road games this week against ranked opponents. Virginia will face No. 18 William & Mary on Wednesday, March 17 at 7 p.m., before heading to No. 13 Princeton on Saturday, March 20 for a noon game.
Question: You had five goals to lift Virginia to a win over North Carolina this weekend. How does it feel to have such a productive offensive game during such an important conference game?
Baker: It was so great to play really well in a game. I have been working hard in practice to try and be more confident in my one-on-one abilities and more importantly, being able to finish my shots. I think it finally just all came together in the game against UNC and I was so happy about that. It also makes me feel really good that my coaches and teammates have confidence in me because everyone is always so supportive during practice, so it is so nice that it finally transferred over to a game.
Question: What was it like to score the game winner? Was there a play set up for you?
Baker: To score the game winner was so crazy. It kind of makes me laugh to think about it because it was so surreal when it happened. I don’t even remember really what I was exactly thinking at the time. We had a play set up for me that had worked previously in the game, so we were going to try and run it again. The weird thing for me is that I was not really nervous about it because I knew that if I messed up or didn’t score, that my team had my back. I knew that we weren’t going to lose that game whether I scored on that play or not.
Question: What about after you scored? What were your thoughts or what went through your head throughout the rest of the overtime period?
Baker: After I scored, I remember hugging everyone and then thinking that we really needed to get back to the draw circle and get the ball back as soon as possible. I was actually more nervous after I had scored because we still had another minute or so left in the first overtime period and then the whole second overtime period left to keep the lead. I was shaking standing on the draw circle thinking “did that really just happen?” I think everyone knew what we needed to do to win this game and we weren’t going to let UNC come away with a win, especially on our home turf.
Question: How important was the win for the team this season?
Baker: I can’t even express how important this win was for our team and for this season. After losing our first game against Loyola, I think everyone stepped it up and realized this is not how we play and we keep getting better and better every day. It has been a goal for us this season and something that our coaches have really emphasized; that win or lose – even though winning is so much better – that we get better every game because we still believe that we are so far from reaching our full potential.
Question: You redshirted your first year due to injury. Now in your second season of play, how do you feel you’ve improved?
Baker: I learned so much from my injury even though I wish it didn’t happen. Solely watching for a year helps you see the game from a different perspective, that’s for sure. But I think being able to play bits and pieces last year really helped me prepare for this year, where I play a more important role on the field than I had in the past. I think the biggest thing I have improved upon is being able to be confident with the ball and learning that if you want to play attack for Virginia, you need to be a skilled and confident ball handler.
Question: You were a midfielder at times last season and are an attacker this year. Why did you make the switch?
Baker: It was kind of a combination of the coaches’ decision and mine. We realized that with my speed, I could be much more of an asset on attack in transitioning the ball and helping distribute it. I also felt like even though I do miss playing defense at some times, it has been easier for me to just focus on the attack and I think it is really starting to pay off for me.
However, during the Maryland game I was stuck playing defense for almost five minutes because one of our middies had gotten a yellow card and Josie [Owen], who usually goes into the defense, was too far away from the defense so I had to go over. I think having the past experience allows me to be able to adapt to a situation like that in where if I do need to play defense for a few minutes, I can do so.
Question: How did you start playing lacrosse?
Baker: It is actually a pretty funny story. All through my elementary and middle school days, I was a very hardcore softball player and I was actually very successful at it. I loved it as well.
In seventh grade, one of our family friends was playing lacrosse at Syracuse at the time and she offered to give me lessons in lacrosse to see if it would be something that I liked playing. I was not thrilled with the idea at all and basically threw a complete fit. I thought lacrosse was a very dumb sport and my mom was the one who basically forced me to go have this lesson. I am not sure what the threat was, but I specifically remember that there was some sort of little threat involved that my mom put on me if I didn’t take the lesson. In the end, I did the lesson and realized that this was kind of fun and I actually was pretty good at it. I guess needless to say, mom knows best.
Question: What are your interests outside of lacrosse?
Baker: I love hanging out with my friends here in Charlottesville and I can’t wait for it to get warmer so we can start hanging out outside and laying by the pool on days off. I also am recently addicted to The Food Network this year, so I really enjoy watching it but I have yet to really implement some things I have watched. Except everyone on the team can tell you I make a pretty mean chicken parm. I will say I am a relatively good baker, ironic I know because of the name, but I love baking cookies, brownies and anything in the realm of sweets.
Question: What is something most people don’t know about you?
I still have a baby tooth. When I was younger, I guess a permanent one just never formed underneath the baby one. It should stay put for a pretty long time, according to my dentist, so I am hoping it doesn’t decide to fall out anytime soon because then I would be toothless!