Taylor Bastien was a three-sport standout at North Kingstown High School. She still has many fond memories of her time as a Skipper, if not quite as much hardware as she would have liked.
“I’ve never won anything in my life until now,” she joked.
Yes, things have changed.
Now the head coach of the Bentley University women’s lacrosse team, Bastien steered her team to the first conference title and first NCAA Tournament berth in school history this spring. After advancing in the tournament due to COVID-19 issues for their first-round opponent, the Falcons lost to Roberts Wesleyan in the Division II East Region Final on May 16, ending a memorable ride.
“That was the goal – make it to NCAAs,” Bastien said. “Obviously, winning a national championship is a goal too but we had to go step by step. In 2019, 2018, we’re talking about finishing top four in the conference, getting to the NEC championship game. Coming into this season, I knew we had a special group.”
Making good on the potential was extra special for Bastien, who is also a graduate of Bentley. After playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse at North Kingstown, graduating in 2009, she settled on lacrosse for the college ranks and starred for the Falcons, leading the team in goals as a junior and in points in her final season. Bastien ranks third all-time in program history with 220 points, on 99 goals and 121 assists. The assists total is second most in program history.
The roots for this season’s goals took hold there.
“We’ve always been a team that had success in the NE-10,” Bastien said. “We finished third, fourth, fifth, sixth. Maybe COVID played into it a little bit with going divisional and only playing one side of the league this year. But to make it to the NEC championship game and win it, it’s been the goal since I was a player.”
Bastien was part of a state runner-up team at North Kingstown in her senior lacrosse season. The sport was still relatively new to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League at that point and has grown significantly since then. Bastien has had a front row seat as the game has evolved and expanded. She spent five years at Bentley, adding an extra year due to a season-ending injury in her sophomore year.
As her collegiate career came to an end, she had hopes of staying involved in collegiate sports, though perhaps not on the sidelines.
“I didn’t think coaching would be my path,” she said. “I always liked college athletics and wanted to be in college athletics, but I thought I would be more in an administrative role.”
After graduating, Bastien worked part-time at ESPN and took an assistant coach job with Bridgeport University in Connecticut. She climbed the coaching ranks quickly, earning the top job at Simmons College just two years after graduation. Two seasons there included a run to the GNAC Championship game in 2017. Bastien was hired at her alma mater in 2018 and found immediate success, with the team earning a national ranking at season’s end in her first three years at the helm.
There were hopes of reaching a higher level in 2020, but the team played only three games before the cancellation of the remainder of the season due to the pandemic. The high hopes persisted and took flight this year, once the sport got the green light.
“We were fortunate we were able to get on the field with COVID and everything that’s going on,” Bastien said.
And they made the most of the opportunity, going 12-3 overall and 8-2 in conference play.
“We had seniors that had played a significant amount of their career,” Bastien said. “They had a lot of playoff experience. We didn’t lose anyone from the 2020 team. And the depth in our roster, I knew it was a special group.”
In the NE-10 tournament, the Falcons won a double-overtime thriller in the first round over Assumption, then topped St. Anselm 13-10 for a spot in the finals. The Falcons advanced to the finals opposite longtime nemesis Adelphi, who had won 19 of 20 all-time meetings with Bentley.
A 9-8 comeback win for the Falcons erased that history.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Bastien said. “Just to be in the NE-10 championship against a team that we were 1-19 against in our program history. To win, I don’t think that sunk in until a few days later.”
Prepping for the NCAA Tournament made it more real.
“It’s been incredible,” Bastien said in the week leading up to the tournament. “It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been chaotic. It’s been stressful. But we’re enjoying every second of this opportunity. We’re here.”
After the automatic advancement to the regional final, the Falcons pushed hard against Roberts Wesleyan but ultimately fell short in a 10-7 loss. Roberts Wesleyan went on to the national semifinals, where it lost to eventual champion Lindenwood.
With the NCAA box now checked, the Falcons may be setting some new goals, and Bastien can’t wait to watch her team try to achieve them.
That’s what it’s all about.
“To be in the game still, to see the development of the game and how it’s changed and to be able to work with 18 to 22 year olds on a daily basis in some of their most transformative years – it’s really awesome,” Bastien said. “There’s no words that can describe the joy you see on these faces. To be able to work with them and to see the impact you can have, it’s kind of a dream.”