Senior Spotlight: Ainsley Baker
Following article appeared in the William & Mary game program on March 16
By Cat Snider
For someone who didn’t even want to play the sport at all, redshirt junior Ainsley Baker has certainly done everything she could to get on the field.
A childhood softball player, the Corning, N.Y., native had no interest in the sport of lacrosse at all. A family friend, who at that time played lacrosse for Syracuse, encouraged Baker to try lacrosse, pointing out that her speed would be perfect for the game. It wasn’t until Baker’s mother intervened that she gave it a chance.
“I didn’t think it was something I would like,” Baker said. “My mom told me to try it and I threw an absolute fit. I told her I wasn’t doing it, I thought it was so dumb.”
But she was persuaded, and after tossing the ball around for a while, she started to get the idea. She then tried out for the high school team and it sealed the deal.
“After playing, I finally got it,” Baker said. “I loved it. It was everything I could have asked for and more.”
Since then, Baker has worked to be an asset on the field. At Corning-Painted Post East High School, Baker’s speed and sportsmanship earned her recognition. She was named an All-American in 2006 and 2007 and led the Trojans to the New York State Tournament Championship as a senior.
It wasn’t until she came to Virginia that she faced her first roadblock. Baker tore her ACL before ever playing in a game for the Cavaliers and ended up redshirting her freshman year. Though being sidelined is difficult, Baker took it in stride, worked hard through rehab and soaked up the new experience.
“It is unusual for a freshman to start and play a lot in their first year,” Baker said. “So although I wanted to be playing, it was certainly okay to be on the sideline. I realized that I was still part of the team and as I healed, I was making the team stronger, even though I wasn’t on the field.”
Baker gradually worked her way back to full strength and got some game time under her belt as a sophomore, before working her way into the starting lineup last year. The attacker had an impressive start to the year, scoring 15 goals in the first nine games, including a career-high five goals – and the game-winner in overtime – in the Cavaliers’ upset over No. 3 North Carolina. She earned ACC Player of the Week honors and a national player of the week mention for her efforts, but within the next two weeks, disaster would strike again. In a practice preparing for ACC-foe Duke, Baker tore her other ACL.
“Getting hurt once is okay, because you can come back from it,” Baker commented. “But getting hurt twice is like getting punched in the gut. You need to have faith that you can overcome your injury and that you will be fine.”
Even her second injury proved that the setback was only making the tough tougher.
With a determined resilience, Baker got right back to rehabbing her ACL. After all, she already knew the drill.
“When you get injured to the severity that I have, you learn that you are the only one who can make yourself better,” Baker said. “Your trainers can tell you what to do, but it is up to you to do it. So being able to have the personal drive to say I can do it and I’m going to do it is the reason that I’m back playing now.”
On her second round of rehab, Baker had some company. Teammates Josie Owen and Bailey Fogarty were also dealt a portion of Baker’s fate and the trio spent this past fall encouraging and challenging each other to get better, together.
“The second time around was made much easier by having Josie and Bailey to work with,” Baker said. “We could work out together, pass and do drills. We were our own little ‘tripod’, as we called ourselves.”
Baker worked tirelessly to get back in peak condition in time for the season to start and her work has paid off. With another season of eligibility remaining after this year, Baker has found herself back in action, working hard on the field to help launch her team to success.
“Being injured and coming back twice has reassured me that if I have an obstacle placed in front of me, I know that the drive to help me get though anything,” Baker said. “It has made me realize that if you work hard, good things will come to you. But you do have to work really hard for it.”