October 21, 2010

Virginia Implements New Players, Schemes in Return to Field

by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Censer Archive

Integrating the freshmen. Installing new defensive schemes. Completing team-building activities. Dividing up playing time equally during scrimmages.

The Virginia women's lacrosse team seems to be enjoying the common rites of passage that most teams take pleasure in during the fall offseason.

"I look forward to practice every day," said Liz Downs, a senior captain and four-year stalwart at the defensive end.

That's good news for the Cavaliers, who last year had to endure the tragic loss of senior defender Yeardley Love. Love was found slain in her Charlottesville apartment May 3. George Huguely, a former midfielder for Virginia's men's lacrosse team, has been charged with her murder. His preliminary hearing earlier this month was postponed to January.

Despite unabated grief and constant media scrutiny, teammates found solace in one another, rallying to defeat a pesky Towson squad in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 14-12. After the final whistle of a 17-7 loss to North Carolina in the quarterfinals, the Tar Heels — along with the rest of the fans — gave the Cavaliers a standing ovation.

This fall, the Virginia women are continuing their "Second Sundays." Started last year by head coach Julie Myers to foster better chemistry, one day a month is spent by the team doing a non-lacrosse activity.

For the first get-together this fall the team went tubing, where players were able float down the James River and get better acquainted with one another (the Cavaliers welcomed 10 freshmen).

"It was a really nice day," said star junior attacker Josie Owen, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

There's also new defensive coach in Jessy Morgan. A former head coach at Howard and star at Virginia, Morgan has returned to Charlottesville and implemented a more up-tempo and aggressive defense.

While replacing a pair of do-everything, All-America midfielders in Brittany Kalkstein and Kaitlin Duff will be difficult, Downs was excited after the Cavaliers' first scrimmage against Maryland Sept. 26.

"We made good strides. We hustled. The heart was there," she said.

Virginia's next fall ball scrimmages are Saturday at Penn, where the Cavaliers will play the host Quakers, Notre Dame and Stanford.

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