Five Virginia women’s lacrosse seniors will be playing in their final regular-season game Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. The Class of 2008 features US Lacrosse members, Tewaaraton Trophy Watch List selections, an ACC Tournament MVP, a national champion and preseason All-Americans, and has recorded a 62-16 overall record going into Wednesday’s match against George Mason. The Cavaliers will go for their third straight ACC Tournament championship April 24-27 at Scott Stadium.
Some of the best television sitcoms in the history of the medium revolve around the family.
A great example is the classic hit “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Between Will Smith’s trading insults with his preppy cousin Carlton and Hilary’s fashion dilemmas, the Banks family came together to resolve everyone’s problems by the end of each week’s episode.
Considering the ups and downs of this season, the members of the Virginia women’s lacrosse team certainly feel like they have been part of a highly-rated series. Now they have their sights set on a satisfying season finale.
With resumes chock full of success, the five seniors on the Virginia women’s lacrosse team are hungry for one elusive goal the NCAA Championship. The quintet has captured the last two ACC titles and advanced on to the NCAA Championship match only to finish as runner-ups.
The drama in last year’s NCAA Final Four was worthy of an Emmy. The Cavaliers staged the biggest comeback in the tournament’s history, rallying from a 10-goal deficit to upend Duke, 14-13, in the semifinals, only to lose to Northwestern, 15-13, in the finals.
Armed with a roster of talented veterans this postseason, the Cavaliers are among the favorites to challenge the Wildcats for the title.
One Virginia player, Kaitlin Swagart, the only fifth-year on the team, knows exactly what it takes to hoist an NCAA trophy.
“I’ve been around a team that’s won,” says Swagart, who played as a freshman on UVa’s 2004 NCAA Championships squad. “With all the seniors, we have a lot of experience winning ACC Championships and making it to NCAAs. I feel that it’s my job to make the team realize how special it can be and how hard you have to work to get to the top; because I’ve been there.”
While it is easy to point to Swagart as the leader for the team in its title quest because of her experience, she is quick to point out that all of the seniors share the role of guiding the team.
“As a group, we still share the leadership responsibilities across the entire class because we all have different things to offer,” she states.
In the family-setting of Virginia lacrosse, Swagart’s teammates recognize her experiences and jokingly cast her into the grandma role, more because of what she’s accomplished rather than of her place as a 22-year-old geriatric. But if she’s the grandmother, everyone agrees that co-captain Claire Bordley occupies the role of matriarch.
“I think they’re right,” Bordley acknowledges with a smile. “I guess I can’t deny it. The facts speak for themselves.
“Our relationship, though, is that we’re all friends. Each year, when the new freshman class comes in, it’s about embracing them and taking them under your wing. It’s just nice to know that you play here, you graduate, and you still have all these kids as your friends. I still have older players who are in touch with me, and I’ll still be in touch with them when I leave.”
Bordley is likely to hone her maternal instincts as a coach in the future.
“The freshmen will sometimes call me coach, and that’s a new thing,” she says. “I don’t know if anyone would take me seriously.”
Any good television sitcom features the role of the crazy counterpart and on the Cavalier roster, that would be goalkeeper Kendall McBrearty. The petite, cartilage-pierced blonde is the self-proclaimed child of the team. But she balances her refreshingly enthusiastic outlook with a solid knowledge of her leadership role.
“As a goalie, I try and keep my leadership to the cage and just try to be a leader of the defense,” McBrearty says. “I try to be a leader for everybody, but mainly I just do it on the field and in practice.”
In the middle of the field, co-captain Megan O’Malley is quick on her feet, switching directions and making split-second decisions. But when asked about which family member she would play on this sitcom, she hesitates, not really sure where she fits in. But her teammates are quick to let her know that she functions much like an older sibling.
“She’s like the cool, fashionable older sister,” McBrearty says.
It is hard to argue. Even after playing in a match, she looks as though she stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. Her straightened blond hair is swept into a perfect ponytail, her blue eyes highlighted with black mascara.
“Yeah, I’m the hip one. I keep them styling,” O’Malley quips.
Beyond her job as the fashion police, she is a significant presence on and off the field.
“I try to be the spark in practice or the focus in a game that’s going to help push our team further.”
As everyone knows, the sitcom family tree is not complete without the crazy relative.
Cavalier senior Alice Hughey is more than happy to star in that role.
“I’d be the goofy uncle.” Hughey admits. “I think a lot of comic relief goes a long way. If we’re in a lull or something, I think that’s where I step in.”
In addition to bringing punch lines to the script, Hughey also brings a unique perspective.
“This is my first year starting, so I think I’m a good example of how if you work hard, you can start and you can play,” she says. “I think I’m kind of that image for people to see. You don’t have to be a first-year starter to be able to get on the field.”
The five seniors all bring something different to the table, from Hughey’s brilliant defensive footwork to O’Malley’s killer sense of style. They have all found a way to be leaders on this year’s team. What binds them is their strong work ethic, effort and intense desire for a national championship.
“We’re such a family,” O’Malley says. “That’s what I think I’ll miss the most when I leave.”
Until then, they will carry on that quest for the NCAA title and a perfect ending for this family story.