Rockville sophomore Kathleen McTighe scored two quick goals to open Saturday’s girls’ lacrosse game against Seneca Valley, prompting Coach Caitlin Ulmer to drop a one-liner that instantly cracked the entire Ram sideline into laughter.
“Maybe she’s going after the triple hat trick for Michelle,” the third-year coach said with a grin.
During last Saturday’s school mulch sale, senior Michelle Miller had announced her plans to register a triple hat trick — seven goals, she said — in the next game against Magruder. Only a triple hat trick requires nine goals, and her teammates spent the rest of the afternoon ribbing the faulty math.
Miller, a three-year varsity midfielder, never got to play in that contest. Two days later, she was found dead in the Germantown home of 31-year-old U.S. Army staff sergeant Adam Arndt, the victim in an apparent murder-suicide.
As the players mourned this week, they have rallied around each other and the memories of their slain friend. Saturday’s game was Rockville’s first at home since the tragedy, and the Rams rallied to beat the Eagles, 18-16, in overtime.
The team also won its first game after Miller’s death at Northwood on Thursday and plans to play again on Tuesday evening, hours after attending her funeral.
“It’s going to be tough for a long time, but I think Michelle was constantly up, constantly happy,” Ulmer said. “I think that makes it easy to remember her with a smile.”
Rockville was slated to play Magruder on Monday before the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse players were summoned to the school cafeteria that afternoon and told of Miller’s death. Those games were postponed, and the players spent much of the evening at school, decorating neon pink and fluorescent yellow warmup T-shirts to honor Miller, who wore jersey No. 1. They carry the message “#1 on the FIELD. #1 in our HEARTS.”
On Tuesday night, the team attended a memorial service at the school’s stadium in which they released hundreds of multi-colored balloons, some of which still clung in the trees next to the field on Saturday.
Ulmer brought the players out on the field briefly on Tuesday and Wednesday for some light stick work ahead of Thursday’s 19-1 win at Northwood, but the team has continued to play without anything resembling its usual practice schedule. Friday’s rain cancelled practice and sent the team to a local ice cream parlor after school instead.
Senior Gabby Li said teammates have rarely left each other’s side in recent days and they have often texted through the night unable to sleep.
“We’ve been kinda getting through it together,” Ulmer said. “A little bit of ice cream, a little bit of lacrosse, a little bit of arts and crafts.”
On Saturday, the Rams made sure Miller, who also played varsity soccer, was never far from mind. During a pregame moment of silence, the players gathered in a tight circle with their sticks pointed skyward. “We are,” yelled senior Sontanna Cremins to break the silence. “One,” the rest of the p¡layers responded. Seneca Valley players then presented each Rockville player with a rose during introductions.
The Rockville players have stickers with Miller’s initials on their sticks and will continue to set up posters they decorated to honor Miller on the bench during games. They also keep Miller’s lacrosse stick, which she had used to score four goals in two games this season and affectionately named Carmen, on the sideline.
The Rams trailed by as many as three goals in the second half against Seneca Valley but rallied to take the lead in the final minute of regulation. Junior Samantha Bauer scored three of her game-high six goals in the six minutes of overtime in the victory.
Afterward, the players celebrated on the field and then rushed to “The Rock” at the far end of the stadium where they posed for photos, happily flashing the No. 1 for the cameras.
“It proves that she’s still with us,” senior Torey Vayer said. “We played for her. We played with her.”