Georgetown Visitation’s field hockey team took less than 24 hours and no prompting to break out a roll of white sports tape.
The girls tacked the makeshift memorials – inscribed in black with scrawled initials “MLG” — to their shin guards to honor a fallen friend, coach, and sister.
One day earlier on Sept. 18 — Mary Lacey Gilbride — a 2008 Visitation grad and former All-Met lacrosse player – died at her home in Alexandria after a lengthy battle with depression.
Despite never picking up a stick during her high school career, Gilbride, 24, assistant-coached the Cubs’ hockey squad in 2011 and 2012. She also led winter workouts for a “gamut of athletes” at the Northwest school.
“She just had a good mind for the game, and for sports in general,” Cubs Coach Karen Zarchin said.
Visitation senior Kelly Myers starting playing lacrosse for Mary Lacey during the sixth grade in Fort Hunt-area youth leagues.
“As soon as she walked into the room, you could feel her presence,” Myers said of Gilbride. “It was something unlike any other person I’ve ever met.”
Also unique to Gilbride, said Myers, was her competitive spirit.
Before the start of practice one day last fall, Zarchin informed the team that Gilbride would lead it in warm-ups.
For her first trick, Mary Lacey prescribed full field-length lunges. Myers remembers thinking that she could handle it, because surely, that would be the extent of the day’s calisthenics.
“Forty-five minutes later we were dead,” Myers said. “But Mary Lacey said, ‘that was just the beginning, now we’re going to go onto the next set.’ ”
“Seeing her regard that as an easy warm up,” Myers said, “which we took as the hardest warm-up ever just speaks to her character and ability.”
McNevin Morris — Gilbride’s high school lacrosse coach – witnessed that talent for four straight years from 2005 to 2008.
“It was like fishing with dynamite having her out there,” Morris said. “She was just so much more physical, more talented, and smarter than everybody on the field.”
One of Morris’s fondest on-field memories of Mary Lacey is the behind-the-back, trick shot goal she scored in a 2007 game against National Cathedral School.
“At the time at least, that [shot] was pretty rare in women’s lacrosse, especially at the high school level,” Morris said. “Even people on the other team were high-fiving her.”
Gilbride’s sisters Annabelle (a senior lacrosse player at the University of Denver) and Lindsay and her club lacrosse coach Bob Stevenson all spoke at her Sept. 23 funeral.
Annabelle and Lindsay made it a point to attend the Cubs’ hockey game the next day, a 3-1 home win over the Potomac School.
For Zarchin, who considers herself close friends with Gilbride, pressing on with field hockey is part of the grieving process.
“I needed the therapy just as much as the kids needed me to be there,” Zarchin said.
When the Cubs (6-2) took the field Tuesday in Alexandria to take on St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, they did so with a more abiding memorial to Gilbride.
Located three inches above the “V” in Visitation, the stitched patch with those same initials serves as a physical reminder of what the folks at Visitation already know.
“Once you met Mary Lacey, you were never gonna forget her,” Myers said. “She’s probably one of the reasons why I kept with lacrosse and started field hockey.”
Patriots have spread it out during undefeated start
The “spine” of Wootton field hockey, as Coach Kearney Blandamer likes to call it, begins with a slight veer to the left. Senior Allie Band sometimes plays wing, but when the forward is up at cherry picker, the three Wootton captains align down the middle to provide the literal backbone of the undefeated Patriots.
“We’ve got one at each level, so it’s a figurative spine, and then around them we’ve got the muscle and heart of the team,” Blandamer said. “It’s a silly metaphor, but we joke that this team kind of shares a brain.”
Whatever connection the Patriots have established in their starting lineup of five seniors, two juniors and an unprecedented four sophomores is working. Wootton maintained their place in the Montgomery County rankings with a 3-0 win at Walter Johnson Monday night. The teams last met in the 4A West region final, where the Wildcats (5-1 overall, 3-1 in 4A South) spoiled the Patriots’ perfect season with a 2-1 double overtime win.
“It was on my mind, but we didn’t talk about it that much,” said senior sweeper captain Dani Averill of the 2012 loss. “We went into it really thinking that it’s just another game and that this is a really capable, skilled team, but we weren’t scared. We were just motivated to play out best.”
Blandamer said one of the referees approached her after the final whistle to comment on the overall strength of Wootton’s (6-0, 4-0) lineup.
“The referee said there really isn’t one player who stood out as being head and shoulders above anyone else, but they do bring different levels of skills,” Blandamer said. “But with that, they also bring similar levels of emotion and intensity.”
Senior captain and California-Berkeley commit Alex Yokley leads in the midfield with six goals and three assists. Band contributed her sixth goal of the season in the win.
On the sidelines, the duo of Blandamer and younger sister/JV coach Lesley Stroot may often question each other—“when we argue on the sideline, we tell the girls we’re talking like family,” Blandamer said—but balance each other out in coaching style.
When the Patriots defense and sophomore goalkeeper Athena Sardelis have let in one of the two goals this season (they’ve outscored opponents 37-2), Blandamer and her sister have watched from the sideline has the captains organize an on-field huddle to regroup.
“After each goal they huddle together talk about what went wrong, and they’ve got a communal resolve to fix it in the name of the team and move forward and think about next play,” Blandamer said.
“They continue to surprise us and just grow stronger, smarter and more cohesive.”
Glenelg makes a jump to the top of the rankings with three wins in the past week, including a 2-1 decision against Howard County contender Mount Hebron. . . . South River drops down after a 2-0 loss to Anne Arundel rival Severna Park and a 2-1 loss at Mount de Sales. . . . Broadneck lost a second meeting with South River, 4-2 . . . Wootton enters the top ten with an undefeated record and a win at last week No. 9 Walter Johnson. . . . St. Stephens/St. Agnes brushed off consecutive losses to Collegiate and St. Annes-Belfield with a 1-0 win over Georgetown Visitation Tuesday.
1. Glenelg (8-2) LW: 2
2. South River (7-2) LW: 1
3. South County (9-2) LW:4
4. Westfield (10-2) LW: 5
5. Severna Park (7-1-1) LW: 4
6 . St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (9-2) LW: 7
7. Broadneck (6-3) LW: 6
8. Atholton (6-2) LW: 8
9. Wootton (6-0) LW: NR
10. Herndon (9-2) LW: 9
On the bubble: Fairfax (8-3), Sherwood (9-0), Mount Hebron (6-1)