March 12, 2014
When you see Liza Blue sporting her No. 9 Virginia uniform, it looks like a natural fit. The reason for that might be genetic. The daughter of a pair of Virginia alums, Liz (Pindell) and Henry Blue, young Liza grew up watching the Cavaliers on TV and making trips to Charlottesville from her home just outside of Baltimore since she was five years old.
"I have been wearing UVA gear since I was born," Blue said. "My dad played golf at UVa, and mother played tennis and rowed for the Cavaliers. Both of my grandparents and even aunts and uncles of mine went to Virginia, so I came right in with that UVA connection. My family didn't push for UVa exactly, but they definitely encouraged it in the recruiting process."
The first steps of the recruiting process began when she was six years old and first started playing lacrosse. She began club lacrosse in the sixth grade and kept getting better and better, garnering attention from multiple programs.
Blue wasn't just being scouted by lacrosse coaches. She also was on the radar for her stick-handling skills in field hockey.
"I started field hockey in sixth grade, later than when I took up lacrosse," Blue said. "I initially started because my school was really strong in field hockey. I had no real interest and I didn't know much about it in lower school. So I picked it up in sixth grade and then also loved it. Lacrosse and field hockey were equal all throughout high school and I couldn't chose going in to college."
So she did what is a real rarity in college athletics these days. She decided to play both.
Blue spent her first semester on Grounds as a member of the 2010 Virginia field hockey team, appearing in 18 games with three starts.
"It was pretty hard playing both sports, but at the time I just dove into it," Blue recalled. "I was used to playing a lot of sports in high school so it just was a very busy schedule."
It wasn't just the busy schedule that was a detriment to competing in both sports. Blue also suffered an injury that caused her to miss what would have been her freshman season of lacrosse in 2011. It was then that she decided to narrow her focus.
"After talking to [head coach Julie Myers] and [associate head coach Colleen Shearer], we just thought it would be best to focus on one sport for my body's sake and just to really excel in one," Blue said. "I think I could have played both but maybe stayed a steady and an average player in both instead of turning into a good player by concentrating on just one. I really wanted to excel, so I decided to focus on just one."
After dedicating her focus to lacrosse, Blue began to excel at the sport. In her delayed rookie season of 2012, she appeared in all 19 games with 16 starts, scoring 17 goals with two assists and 20 draw controls. She was named the WomensLax.com Rookie of the Week in the first honor of the year after scoring twice, recording an assist, picking up two ground balls, causing a turnover and tallying five draw controls in an upset of No. 7 Loyola in the season opener.
Blue was looking forward to the hard work and experience of 2012 parlaying into an even stronger 2013, when she was struck by injury and illness at the end of training that caused her to miss the start of the season.
"That was actually very hard," Blue said of being sidelined at the beginning of last year. "I made it through the tough preseason and then before the first game I got sick. That was hard. I was out for longer than we thought too. It was hard coming back and when I did finally make it back on the field, I was playing a position I wasn't used to- in the midfield. By the end of the season I got my feet back under me. "
Blue was a keystone to the Cavalier attack in the post season, scoring four goals in the must-win game over Duke in the ACC Tournament and posting a hat trick in the first-round NCAA Tournament win against Penn.
"I had my confidence back and I was playing that run on attacker, so, my only goal was focusing on scoring," Blue recalled. "I had kind of went cold for a little bit, but then because I didn't have to play defense, I was fully focused and I knew we needed some fire power to get us through the tournament. The win over Duke was definitely one of my highlights of my college career so far. We had worked so hard leading up to that game with two-a-day practices and hard work. To beat them, it was one of the best feelings."
Blue is in her fourth year of a five-year kinesiology program. She will graduate in May with her bachelor's in kinesiology and will then graduate again in May of 2015 with her masters in teacher education. She will begin her student-teaching in the fall, but she already is working with kids, doing a practicum where she was teaching P.E. to elementary school kids. Her favorite subject to teach them: lacrosse.
"It was challenging, especially because they were second graders and all over the place," Blue laughed. "I just had to sit them down and show them the sticks and tell them which end went where. Most of the kids know about lacrosse, but many of them haven't played. It was fun seeing the boys and girls cradle and throw around and they didn't really know what was going on, but I think I helped them a little bit."
Though Blue still has plenty of lacrosse ahead of her, she wanted to take this opportunity to express some appreciation.
"I would like to thank my parents for helping me through all four years now," Blue said. "It's been fun, but it's been a bumpy road. I want to thank my friends and my fourth year class. Having friends on the field everyday is what makes you come to practice. It's a long season but being with your friends and playing hard is a good feeling."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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