Former Friends star Santos comes to defense of Virginia

May 13, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Natalie Santos was a reserve when Virginia won the women's NCAA Division I lacrosse championship in 1991. An All-Metro defender at Friends School, she vowed then not to spend any more time on the bench.

She has been starting ever since. Last year, she helped lead the Cavaliers to another national championship with an 8-6, overtime victory against Princeton.

Tomorrow, Santos and the Cavaliers (12-3) open their title defense, playing host to William and Mary (11-5).

"Last year, Natalie had a good national championship [game]," said Cavaliers coach Jane Miller. "She made the difference on a couple of key possessions. She's the quiet-type defender that every team needs. Line defenders need to be solid and consistent, and that's what Natalie does for us."

If Virginia beats William and Mary, the Cavaliers face a rematch with second-seeded Princeton in the tournament semifinals May in College Park.

If they don't, Santos won't complain.

"I'd love to repeat, but when I left for college, I never would have dreamt that I would win two national championships. Winning two has been like a dream."

One of the best defensive players to come out of an area high school, Santos was an All-American as a senior. Her most impressive accomplishment came just after graduation, when she led a team of Baltimore high school stars to victory over Philadelphia's best at the Hall of Fame Lacrosse Classic at Johns Hopkins. She was named the game's most valuable player.

The player Santos edged out for that MVP award was Philly all-star Cherie Greer, now her roommate at Virginia.

Facing Greer, one of the fastest players in the college game, at practice every day has helped Santos hone her skills at cover point. A World Cup player last summer, Greer is tied for second in the nation in scoring.

"There's a lot of speed in college, and you have to give a little more space to the faster people," Santos said. "In high school, you could pretty much keep up with everyone. I have to give more space now to those faster people, because I'm not blessed with speed."

But Santos is blessed with great defensive instincts, and she has worked hard on her game. She plays excellent position defense, knows how to deny the ball and makes good decisions.

Once the season ends, Santos plans to head home to Reisterstown for a year off. Then, she'll go to medical school to become a perinatalogist. Her father, Art Santos, is a neonatologist and her mother, JoAnn Santos, is a pediatrician.

"I'm going to deliver the babies, my dad will take care of them and then Mom can take care of them until they're 18," Santos said. "I'm definitely going into the family business."

Although she would like to help coach somewhere next spring, Santos' playing days will end after this season.

"Lacrosse is something I've enjoyed since lower school, but it's time to get on to something else. It's time for a new challenge."

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