A Lacrosse Star Lives Up to Her Late Mother's Legacy

Before her death in 2001, Sherry Millard said she thought her daughter Molly, right, would follow her in sports.
Before her death in 2001, Sherry Millard said she thought her daughter Molly, right, would follow her in sports. "This is my athlete," she said. (By Joel Richardson For The Washington Post)
By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Back when Molly Millard had just begun to play sports in youth leagues and had yet to pick up a lacrosse stick, Sherry Millard came to an inescapable conclusion about the youngest of her four daughters.

"She knew [Molly] was going to be the one who would follow her with the sports," remembers Anne Monahan, who started the girls' lacrosse program with Sherry at Sidwell Friends in the early 1970s.

"She knew Molly was the tiger in the family. She knew from the very beginning. She said, 'This is my athlete.' "

Sherry Millard -- a four-sport star in college -- died of breast cancer on May 4, 2001, before she could see whether her prediction had come true. Even with her absence, though, Molly has more than lived up to her mom's hopes.

As a senior at St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, Molly led the No. 2 Saints (18-1) with 81 points (43 goals, 38 assists) in the regular season. At 5 feet 10, she possesses a blend of size, speed and skill that can be, at times, unstoppable. Next year, she will play for the University of Virginia on a partial scholarship.

"It definitely makes me sad to think about the things she hasn't been able to see me do that I know, if she were here, she would be really happy about," said Molly, who copes with Mother's Day and the anniversary of her mother's death in a two-week span each year. "Even if I wasn't great at sports, I think she'd be happy to see how happy I am."

Saints Coach Kathy Jenkins knew Sherry for nearly 30 years and sees her competitiveness and passion reflected in her daughter. And the coach is certainly not alone in spotting similarities that go beyond pure athleticism.

"Molly, like her mom, when faced with adversity, she actually talks things through and attacks things in little increments," said her father, Dave, 58. "She doesn't get overwhelmed by things, and her mom didn't. Her mom had a confidence that she could get things done."

Molly, 18, shies away from too many athletic comparisons, which seems prudent considering how high Sherry set the bar. After graduating from W.T. Woodson, Sherry played field hockey, lacrosse, basketball and tennis at William and Mary. She also played for the U.S. field hockey and lacrosse teams and coached field hockey and basketball at Sidwell Friends, in addition to lacrosse with Monahan.

"I don't think I could do all that," Molly said.

But she has been the athlete her mother foresaw. After playing varsity soccer, basketball and lacrosse during her freshman year at Sidwell, she transferred to St. Stephen's/St. Agnes.

In her three years there, she has also played basketball, acted in the fall play and won homecoming queen in addition to remaining dedicated to lacrosse. And with the success that has followed, she often hears the same thing: "Your mom would be so proud of you."

"I wish I knew," Molly said, "I wish I could see her in the stands or see her seeing me do it, but it's definitely really nice to hear people recognize that she would be proud of me and that I'm doing okay without her. . . . I think it is in my genes to want to pick up a lacrosse stick, and I think it's really cool that I'm doing what she did."

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