Virginia women edge Towson, 14-12, in NCAA lacrosse tournament, their first game since Yeardley Love's death
Monday, May 17, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Shortly after the Virginia women's lacrosse team secured a 14-12 victory over Towson in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, the Cavaliers stood on the field and raised simple white signs that were boldly printed with the No. 1. It was a final tribute on an afternoon filled with reminders of the player who use to wear the jersey No. 1, teammate Yeardley Love, who was found dead on May 3.
Two hours earlier, the team had taken the field to a Cher song that included the lyrics, "Do you believe in life after love?" The song -- which had become a favorite of the team's after it was played on the bus following the ACC tournament last month -- took on new meaning Sunday, as the Cavaliers played their first game since Love's death.
Love's mother, Sharon, and sister, Lexie, were among the crowd of 2,270 in Klockner Stadium; they watched the game from the bleachers alongside U-Va. President John T. Casteen. After the game, each player embraced Sharon and Lexie.
"You get distracted sometimes, but then you get reminded of how much bigger than ourselves this all is," senior Whitaker Hagerman said. "It truly showed out there on the field that it's a whole community we're playing for, and it's a family, and it's one of our best friends."
George Huguely, a senior on the men's lacrosse team, has been charged with first-degree murder in Love's death, and both teams remain publicly silent about the details of Love's death while a police investigation remains ongoing.
The entire day served as an unofficial dedication to Love. The Cavaliers took the field first with gray shirts that read, "One squad, one heart, One Love" on the front. During warmups, the team wore blue shirts with a similar motto on the back. The team's uniforms had a patch that read "Love."
Towson's players wore orange armbands emblazoned with "YL," and they presented angel pins to the Virginia players after the game. Members of the Virginia men's lacrosse team, which beat Mount St. Mary's in a first-round NCAA game on Saturday, sat in the stands, some of them in shirts that read "One love." A sign sitting flat on the grass lawn overlooking the field read "1,2,3,4 Together 'Hoos" -- the same cheer that Coach Julie Myers recited at Love's funeral.
"This was obviously much more than just a game today," Myers said. "Obviously, the last couple of weeks have been unfamiliar territory, but our players, our coaches, everybody surrounding our program and even people that aren't attached directly to our program have been so strong and have really helped keep us hopeful and keep us together."
Before the game, there was a moment of silence that lasted 15 seconds. When the silence concluded, the crowd remained quiet until one fan exclaimed, "Let's Go U-Va.!" Rousing applause followed, and the grieving gave way to support. The Cavaliers scored 12 seconds after the opening whistle, but the game remained tight throughout. When the score was tied late in the second half, the Love family moved to the sideline.
"I felt like we were going to suddenly be okay," said Myers, whose team scored three goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes to pull away.
Hagerman's mother, Parny, sold patches of a heart enclosing "Love" and "#1." She charged $10, which covered the cost of the patch. She also accepted additional donations for the scholarship fund that has been established in Love's name. Parny Hagerman and Kitsy Duff used to drive to Charlottesville together with Love's mother, laughing before watching their daughters, Hagerman said.
Just like the men's team, the women's team was relieved it could spend at least one more week together; the Cavaliers will face North Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals next weekend.
They're aware that the team's newfound spotlight will not fade, but they saw Sunday as a good next step in their quest to move on while still honoring their teammate.
"This game was really about doing it for Yeardley, doing it for the Loves," senior Marye Kellermann said. "Overall, just thinking about Yeardley, keeping her in our hearts and playing for her."
Staff writer Steve Yanda contributed to this report.