London Native Baylis Enjoys the Journey, Helping PU Field Hockey Earn NCAA Berth
LONDON CALLING: Princeton University field hockey goalie Grace Baylis directs the Tiger defense in recent action. Last Sunday, senior star Baylis, a native of London, England, made two saves as eighth-ranked Princeton defeated Cornell 3-0 to clinch a share of the Ivy League title and the league’s automatic bid for the upcoming NCAA tournament. Baylis was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week. Princeton, now 12-4 overall and 6-0 Ivy, plays at Penn on November 9 to wrap up regular season action. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Grace Baylis, joining the Princeton University field hockey program involved a longer journey than most of her teammates.
Hailing from London, England, star goalie Baylis arrived at Princeton in 2015 confident that she had found a good fit far from home.
“I wanted to play at a really good level and get a really good education and this allowed me to do that,” said senior goalie Baylis.
“That is what is so special about our program – we love field hockey and you can still pursue whatever you want, academically, socially, extracurricular, and still play.”
Baylis and her classmates got some love last Sunday as the program held its annual Senior Day celebration before hosting Cornell in its regular season home finale.
“It is emotional; we have had such a good four years here and we are so far from being finished,” said Baylis, whose fellow seniors included Taylor Nolan, Krista Hoffman, Carlotta von Gierke, and Maddie Bacskai, who is sidelined by injury this fall and has another season of eligibility remaining.
“That might be our last time playing here. It is just so special to get to play here one more weekend, have fun as a team and enjoy it. They make the day so special for us.
It turned into a very special afternoon for the Tigers as Princeton posted a 3-0 win, clinching a share of the Ivy League title and the league’s automatic bid for the upcoming NCAA tournament in the process.
“Cornell are a good side, they have had a good season,” said Baylis. “They are massively improved which is good for us; we want the Ivy League to get as good as it can. It was good to play someone good. We played well. We dominated most of the game, to get a shutout is a cherry on top.”
In reflecting on the shutout as eighth-ranked Princeton improved to 12-4 overall, 6-0 Ivy and extended its winning streak to nine, Baylis tipped her hat to the Princeton defensive unit.
“It is looking at how far we have come defensively this season, we have made massive strides,” asserted Baylis.
“Props to Gabby Andretta who has filled some massive shoes and has done it so well with such grace and composure. They did a really great job as did the whole team.”
Serving as the voice of the defense Baylis has helped that unit hold its shape this fall.
“You have to talk, it is definitely a big role that I play, helping everyone through the game,” said Baylis, who made two saves in the win over Cornell and was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week.
“They could do it with or without me talking. As a team we have grown so much. It is really great now to see them play with such composure.”
Earning a share of the Ivy title and clinching another trip to the NCAA tourney made for some great Senior Day memories.
“It is massively special; as a team we are very ambitious,” said Baylis of the program which has reached the NCAA Final Four two times in the last three years
“Every year, we set very ambitious goals. Last year we did so well but we didn’t achieve an Ivy League title. Actually this year we have achieved something. We have won the Ivy league which is so special. We are going to walk away with a ring, it is really great. This group of girls really deserves it. We have worked so hard in the offseason, preseason, and over the summer. They are so committed to it, they just love it.”
Baylis is hoping that commitment will result in a second straight trip the NCAA semis.
“I think sometimes the biggest indicator of whether you can make a good run is your team chemistry,” said Baylis.
“Last year, we just felt grateful that we were one of the last four teams practicing and that is what it is about. In the grand scheme of things, come the end of November there are only going to be four teams practicing. We desperately want to be one of them so we can be out on this field with each other and just enjoy it.”
Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente has enjoyed seeing the progress made by her seniors.
“They came in when I came in so we started together,” said Tagliente.
“I am just proud of them, they have all done a great job over their four years. Each had a different journey. They are a big reason why the current team is where we are at right now. They have had a great four years and they are still going right now. I am really happy for them.”
Tagliente was proud of Princeton’s effort in the win over the Big Red.
“Cornell is much improved and I knew this game would not be easy,” said Tagliente.
“We talked a lot about putting Harvard (a 3-2 win on October 26 in a showdown behind teams that were both undefeated in Ivy play) behind us and focusing on this game. They have had good results, they beat Syracuse. They keep the game close, they have good athletes. I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this game. In the second half, I thought we played really, really well. We weren’t getting stuff to drop but the opportunities were there.”
The solid effort by the Tiger defense also pleased Tagliente.
“We talked at halftime about making the adjustment of getting ball pressure earlier and you saw us stifle them a bit higher,” said Tagliente.
“When they did get through, Carlotta and those guys were marking them well and cleaning stuff up. You could just sense the poise defensively was much greater in the second half than in the first half.”
Getting poised play from Baylis in the cage has made a big difference at that end of the field.
“Grace is a voice of the team and two-time captain,” said Tagliente. “I am really happy for her and the experiences and opportunities that she has had. She continues to have them going forward this season. It was a good game for her. We have been splitting her and [Grace] Brightbill for the last bunch of games. We let her go the whole game. I felt like she was really focused and playing really well. We let her ride this game out and I thought she had a great game.”
Riding the nine-game winning streak as it heads into its regular season finale at Penn on November 9, Princeton has raised the level of its game with the postseason around the corner.
“I do think we are playing better,” said Tagliente. “You could say we should have six goals in this game but the marker of it is the dominance of our play and how cleanly we play. Defensively, we have cleaned a lot up and attack-wise we have cleaned up things.”
Looking ahead to the NCAA tourney, Tagliente knows that bringing a winning streak into the competition doesn’t guarantee a long run.
“We have got to get through Penn first and then it is game by game,” said Tagliente.
“There is just so much that goes into each game; there is a lot of emotion and a lot of pressure. We will cross that bridge when we get there. I do think we have the potential; we will get there and it is game by game at that point.”
No matter what happens in the postseason, Baylis is glad she made the decision to cross the Atlantic and join the Princeton program.
“It has been incredible; if I could do it all over again, I would,” said Baylis.
“There have been so many highs and lows and dips and all of that. I just feel so grateful to have been picked up by a program like this, having been able to have an incredible four years and make so many friends.”