Love's lacrosse number is retired by University of Virginia

Yeardley Love's mother, Sharon, sister Lexie and family friend Jamie Hodges, before the University of Virginia game.
Yeardley Love's mother, Sharon, sister Lexie and family friend Jamie Hodges, before the University of Virginia game. (Amy Davis)
By Jean Marbella
Monday, March 7, 2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE - On the field of her dreams, Yeardley Love will remain number one forever. The Cockeysville, Md., native's uniform number was retired Sunday at the University of Virginia, where teammates, relatives, friends and fans gathered in the rain to present her mother and sister with a commemorative jersey and to raise a flag bearing her name and number, one, at her beloved lacrosse field.

Love was killed 10 months ago in a crime that still resonates on the campus, where the 22-year-old had fulfilled her childhood dream of playing for the perennial lacrosse powerhouse. Less than two weeks before she was to graduate, she was found dead in her apartment, leading to the arrest of her ex-boyfriend and fellow lacrosse player, George Huguely, who remains jailed on murder charges.

But before Sunday's women's lacrosse game at Klockner Stadium, it was Love's life that school athletic officials honored by retiring the number one that she wore and giving her mother, Sharon, and sister Lexie flowers, hugs and a framed jersey as fans gathered for the game against Penn State stood and applauded.

For Sharon Love, who had cheered from the sidelines and stands of numerous lacrosse fields since her daughter took up the sport as a 5-year-old, returning to the U-Va. stadium brought a mix of emotions.

"It's bittersweet," Love said in an interview Saturday.

Love said she and her elder daughter have been bolstered through the difficult months by the outpouring of support for the foundation her family has started and named after Yeardley. Called the One Love Foundation, it has raised money for a new lacrosse field at Notre Dame Preparatory School as well as future scholarships and projects that will promote community service.

"Lexie and I have been overwhelmed by people's kindness and generosity," Love said. "People have been so kind, it's really helped us so much. It just pulls you on."

Mother and daughter watched from the center of the field as five former players, seniors with Yeardley Love last year, hoisted a banner bearing her name and number at the center of the stadium's flag court. It will fly at every U-Va. women's lacrosse home game.

"She was so much more than lacrosse, but it's hard not to come back to Charlottesville and see our coach and the other players without thinking of Yeardley," said Brittany Kalkstein, one of the Class of 2010 players.

'An honor for her'

The retirement of Love's number was the latest in a series of posthumous honors that the family has received in her name, including the diploma that her cousin Lawren McChesney accepted on her behalf at U-Va.'s commencement ceremony and the Betty and Money Yates award, given by the school to the female lacrosse player who best exemplifies dedication and leadership to the team. Yeardley had been selected for the award but died before receiving it, her mother said she was told.

"I'm sure she knows about it now," Sharon Love said. "It was an honor for her, and, of course, I feel as a mother she deserves it."

Love teaches and interprets for hearing-impaired children in the Baltimore public school system. Her family members say that getting the One Love Foundation off the ground has helped them channel at least some of their grief during the past months as the criminal case against Huguely has made its way through the courts. He faces a variety of charges, including murder and burglary, in connection with her May 3 death. He told police that he had shaken her during a fight in her apartment, causing her head to bang against the wall. He faces a preliminary hearing April 11.

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