Towson draws emotional first-round matchup with Virginia

Cavaliers are coming off laying Yeardley Love to rest Saturday

May 10, 2010|By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

The possibility crossed Towson coach Missy Doherty's mind a few times Sunday: Her Tigers just might get the toughest emotional draw in the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament. She was right.

As Doherty and her team watched the televised selection show Sunday night, the first matchup revealed was Towson's draw, because the Tigers will be heading to Virginia for a first-round game Sunday.

The Cavaliers are still reeling from the death of senior Yeardley Love, the Notre Dame Prep graduate who was found dead in her apartment Monday and was laid to rest in Baltimore on Saturday. Love's ex-boyfriend, a Virginia men's lacrosse player, has been charged with her murder. This will be the team's first game since Love's death.

Doherty quickly put the matchup in perspective for the Tigers, some of whom knew Love, but not well.

"I mentioned after the draw that it is going to be somewhat of an emotional game," Doherty said, "but what we're going through pales in comparison to what Virginia's going through. They lost their teammate, so as difficult as it might be for us to go down there and deal with some of the emotional things going on, it's nothing compared to what their players are dealing with."

What might be most difficult for the Tigers is having just about everyone rooting against them, because Virginia has become a sentimental favorite far beyond Charlottesville.

As Adam Zucker, the anchor for Sunday night's selection show on CBS College Sports Network, told Virginia coach Julie Myers, whom he interviewed by phone, "No doubt you have a whole new crop of fans around this country rooting for you."

That can make it hard for a lacrosse game to be just a lacrosse game for the Tigers.

This is not the first time Doherty has coached a team facing that kind of emotional wave. As an assistant at Princeton in 2003 in the NCAA semifinals, she coached against Loyola and coach Diane Geppi-Aikens, who was struggling with brain cancer and died in late June.

"They are very different situations, but I coached against Loyola with Diane's last year," said Doherty, "so you wake up and the 'Today' show's talking about how the whole country's rooting for Loyola. I told the [Towson] girls [that] with everything going on, it's a pretty heavy experience but when the whistle blows, it's just lacrosse and we're both playing for the same thing, to go further in the tournament. We respect them as opponents just like they respect us as opponents, and a lot of comfort comes back when that very first whistle blows because you just go out there and do your very best."

After what Myers described Sunday night in the telephone interview as a "rollerc-oaster" week, the Cavaliers are trying to get back to some level of normality after attending Love's viewing Friday and her funeral Saturday in Baltimore. They practiced Sunday at Notre Dame Prep, with NCAA permission, Myers said, and many alumni and parents showed up to support the team.

"I think we're building back to a normalcy," Myers said. "I think it'll be a new normal. It won't be anything that we're used to, but I think our spirits are good. Lots of people have come out trying to help us out with their support. This week, it's figuring out exams and when we can practice, but I think our kids are ready to try to give this a shot. They know if we ... win, we get another week together. If we're lucky enough to win the next week, we get another week, so right now we're playing in honor of Yeards and we're playing to keep this team together as we go through this mourning process."

Moments of silence were held on lacrosse fields around the area Saturday in honor of Love, and Doherty said there was a moment of silence before the Colonial Athletic Association tournament games at James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va., where the Tigers played.

"For our CAA tournament," Doherty said, "we wore wristbands with Yeardley Love's initials on them and we'll probably do the same for the Virginia game. If Virginia would like us to do anything, we would be happy to do anything they would like us to do as well."

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