Experience and determination: Brooke Baker’s journey to Vanderbilt Lacrosse

Brooke Baker has become a star for the Vanderbilt Lacrosse team.
Brooke Baker driving towards the goal with her cradling the ball in the background. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)
Brooke Baker driving towards the goal with her cradling the ball in the background. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)
Vince Lin

Coaches often reference the intangible traits in an athlete. Grit, leadership and passion are a few examples. These are the building blocks of an athlete that can’t necessarily be measured, but they define an athlete’s effort on the field. These characteristics can differentiate mediocre players from the best and spark a player to new heights.   

Brooke Baker, a graduate student from Raleigh, N.C., possesses such traits. In Baker’s case, she not only has the competitive drive to perfect her craft, but also produces results: a rare combination. Her grit and determination are what set her apart from the rest of the competition. 

Baker was born to play lacrosse. From the moment she started throwing the lacrosse ball in the backyard with her older brother, she was hooked. Like most youngest children, she had a drive to beat her older sibling. That motivation to beat her older brother has now blossomed into a starting role for the Vanderbilt Lacrosse team.  

“I have an older brother and so I naturally followed in his footsteps at a young age,” Baker told the Hustler. “I pretty much played every sport he played. When we played lacrosse in the backyard, it would just spark some passion.” 

Baker quickly took that passion for lacrosse and formed a goal: play at the highest level. She started by playing on a club lacrosse team to refine her skills and begin competing with the best players in her class. 

“I would say club [lacrosse] was a huge aspect in my development as a player. I dedicated a lot of time outside of school to travel,” Baker said. “I would definitely say club lacrosse developed me into the player I am today.”

Baker seemed destined to be a force on any team she played for, but she wanted to put herself in the best position to continue to develop. For her senior year of high school, Baker transferred to William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, Pa. to compete at an even higher level. 

“I actually moved to Philadelphia to go to school at [William] Penn Charter,” Baker said. “I wanted to take control of my lacrosse in that aspect. I was able to play at a high level and compete with some of the best players in lacrosse right now. That really kick-started me.”

After receiving several Division I offers, Baker opted to stay close to home and play at the University of North Carolina. With UNC’s deep and experienced roster, Baker saw limited playing time over her three years. 

“My time at UNC was crucial in developing me,” Baker said. “I played a different role on that team. I think because of that, I’m able to see all roles that everyone can play on a team. Whether it’s the role of a starter, someone coming off the bench or somebody who’s cheering on the team, I’ve been in all of those situations and I’ve played that role.”

After three years with the Tar Heels, it was time for her to move on. She felt like she could make a bigger impact at Vanderbilt. Baker was motivated to come to West End due to the strong academics and growing lacrosse program. 

“It was definitely a combination of academics and athletics, and obviously Nashville is an amazing city,” Baker said. “Also, my brother is in med school here and he played a huge role in me even starting to play lacrosse. It was a pretty easy decision for me.”

Baker has emerged as a star on head coach Beth Hewitt’s team since coming to Vanderbilt. The midfielder has scored 31 goals across 15 games, the second highest total on the team. She has also registered three games this season scoring five goals. Similarly, her veteran leadership is something that can’t be measured. Reflecting on her influence, Baker says that her consistency and work ethic have made her team more competitive.  

“I think individually, I’ve shown up to every practice with a strong work ethic, and I give my 100% effort every single day,” Baker said. “I think those around me feel that, and I think it makes us a lot more competitive as a unit. I think the competitiveness that I’ve personally brought has helped our team.”

While Baker has seen improvement in her own game, she is most concerned with the team’s performance. She emphasized that she is always stronger when the team plays as a group.  

“Everyone understands their role on the team,” Baker said. “I think we play to our strengths. I can easily tell you right now where Ella Smith or Kemper Robinson wants to dodge. Our teammates are really great at setting each other up for success and I think it’s helping everyone.”

Vanderbilt currently holds an 8-7 (2-3) record and will look to finish the regular season strong as they approach postseason play. The Commodores have lost some close games – falling to No. 22 Penn State 11-12 and Coastal Carolina 8-10 – which has turned these last few regular season games into must-wins. Baker understands that there are still things this team needs to improve upon. 

“I think for us, we just need to trust our instincts more,” Baker said. “We had errors in our ground balls [against Coastal Carolina] and those are things that we know how to do and we can easily clean up.”

As Baker continues to build her legacy on West End, she will never be satisfied. There is a constant competitive drive that keeps her wanting to improve both on and off the field. 

“Never take things for granted,” Baker said. 

She emphasized that nothing is ever given to you. Her tireless work ethic has brought her to this point. She’s grateful to be playing lacrosse at Vanderbilt and pursuing her dreams at the highest level.

“I would just say we’re so lucky to be on a beautiful campus where the academics and athletics are superior. I feel like that’s about it,” Baker said. “We are in Nashville and we go to a top university. I think that’s pretty much enough said right there.”

Baker will look to push Vanderbilt deep into the postseason and secure the Commodores an NCAA Tournament berth. Despite all this, it is her determination and leadership, the intangible traits, that make Baker a Commodore to remember. 

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About the Contributors
Henry Oelhafen
Henry Oelhafen, Deputy Sports Editor
Henry Oelhafen (‘26) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in business. Henry grew up as a Vanderbilt sports fan and loves to talk about both professional and amateur golf. In addition to writing, he loves to play golf with friends, hike and try new restaurants. He can be reached at [email protected].
Vince Lin
Vince Lin, Deputy Videography Editor
Vince Lin (‘27) is from Zanesville, Ohio, and is majoring in computer science. Vince also serves as a graphics and photography staffer. Outside of school, you can find him at the gym, rowing, lifting weights, playing games with friends or sleeping. You can reach him at [email protected].
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