With Love in their hearts and minds, U.Va. moves forward with Towson victory

In first game since Yeardley Love’s death, longtime Baltimore friends score crucial goals in 14-12 win against Tigers

May 16, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Charlottesville, Va. — As the members of the Virginia women's lacrosse team made their way from University Hall to Klockner Stadium Sunday morning, their mood seemed light and, as is often the case with a bunch of college girls, chatty.

The only reminders of the tragedy that transpired here nearly two weeks ago were the cameras from ESPN that trailed them, and the dark blue T-shirts the players unveiled after taking the field for warm-ups in their opening round game in the NCAA women's lacrosse championships against Towson.




Playing for the first time since one of their own, senior Yeardley Love of Cockeysville, was killed in her off-campus apartment May 3, the Cavaliers were able to put aside their collective mourning for a couple hours. Love's former boyfriend and men's lacrosse player George Huguely, has been charged with murder in her death.

A moment of silence for Love and her family was broken when one fan yelled, "Let's go Cavs!" What appeared to be a rout when Virginia scored 12 seconds into the game and added two more goals in the first three minutes turned into a tight contest won by the Cavaliers, 14-12.

The emotions that had been pent up during the game poured out afterward as the coaches and players alternated tears with smiles as they hugged Love's mother, Sharon, her older sister Lexi and other family members who had made their way from the stands to the sidelines in the last few minutes of the game.

Virginia coach Julie Myers, whose decision to have her team play in the NCAA tournament was made after talking with Love's mother, noticed the family standing behind her with the score tied at 11. Myers said later that "I thought we were going to suddenly be OK, I felt like they were going to be our extra emotion on the side. Their presence was definitely felt."

Myers, whose players wore black-and-white patches with Love's name on their uniforms, said "I get a lot of my strength from my team and I get a lot of my strength just trying to figure out the next step from the Love family. To see them was huge. I saw them on the big screen at one point during the game. I saw them cheering and enjoying, and that also gave me a sense of peace and hopefulness as well."

A university spokesman did not make Sharon Love and her family available to talk to the media.

Myers also credited the 2,270 fans -- a season-high -- for coming to the game.

One of them, Larry Craig of Stannersville, Va., said it was his first women's lacrosse game this year, but felt compelled to be there. "The community did a good job supporting the team, let them know we felt what had happened," Craig said." It was traumatic for the community, the university and the families involved. It was important to be here."

With Cher's "Believe" blaring from the loudspeakers throughout the game -- with the ironic lyric, 'Do you believe in life after love?" -- two of Love's closest and oldest friends on the team scored what turned out to be the winning and insurance goals in the final 8-1/2 minutes for the Cavaliers.

Both Brittany Kalkstein, from Roland Park Country, and Caity Whiteley, from St. Paul's, had known "Yards" since they were 6-year-olds playing in the Towsontown Rec League. It was Whiteley who, along with another Virginia student, had discovered Love's body and called police.

"This has obviously been a pretty unbelievable situation, but our team is going through this together," said Kalkstein, whose second goal with 8:26 remaining broke an 11-11 tie. "It was a crazy last two weeks, being together and trying to stay focused and coming out to practice, we needed to be with each other and get through it."

"I wanted to have a good game no matter what and help my team, but I think I wanted to play especially well just to honor her because her family was there," said Whiteley, who scored three goals, including one with 3:54 left to put Virginia ahead 13-11. "It meant a lot."

The Cavaliers celebrated after the game by gathering on the field and holding signs above their heads with Love's jersey number -- 1 -- on them and showing them to the crowd. The Towson team also honored Love by wearing wristbands in Virginia's blue and orange, with Love's initials on them. After the game, the Tigers presented each Virginia player with a pin of an angel carrying a lacrosse stick.

"The support from all the teams in the NCAA has been unreal, and it has really given us strength," said Kalkstein. "It's been encouraging to come out and play together and to take the next step forward. To see those armbands with the YL on, it really meant something."

"The way I addressed it with our team last night," said Towson coach Missy Doherty, "with everything going on, it was one of the first chances to really celebrate Yeardley's life, and not dwell on all the tragedy and what has happened. It was just a motivation for us to have a great opportunity."

The Virginia team will now get ready for their trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., to play third-seeded North Carolina in the quarterfinals next weekend, the same weekend Love will receive her degree posthumously.

"You hear that you always want to find some kind of normal. To be back on a game field is something that's normal at this point of the season," Myers said. It's part of our routine that we have been going through for years and years. The game just presented a great focus. It felt as normal as it could. We still need to be together as we take the next step."

Whiteley agreed. "Playing today meant a lot," she said. "Obviously today was not normal, but I think every day together we get stronger, figuring out what we need from each other. Today was good."


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