CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – With memories of slain teammate Yeardley Love everywhere, the Virginia women’s lacrosse team played for the first time since her death, looking to clear what the coach called a “huge hurdle.”
On a day of remembrance and grief, the players wore shirts under their jerseys with the phrase “One Team. One Heart. One Love.” They also produced a victory Sunday that allowed them to stay together another week.
Love’s mother and sister were in the stands when the Cavaliers rallied in the last four minutes to beat Towson 14-12 and reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
“They came down when we were tied, and when they came down, and I saw them kind of walking up behind our team, I felt like we were going to suddenly be OK,” Virginia coach Julie Myers said. “I felt like they were going to kind of be our extra emotion on the side.”
Love’s battered body was found May 3, and Virginia men’s lacrosse player George Huguely has been charged with murder. The team attended her funeral last weekend in Maryland.
The players had black patches on the front of their jerseys with the word “LOVE” in white letters. Towson wore orange wristbands with “Y.L.” in dark blue.
“This was obviously much more than just a game today,” Myers said, describing the game as a “huge hurdle to clear.”
As was the case before the men’s game Saturday night, both teams and the crowd observed a moment of silence. When the game ended, fans chanted “UVA UVA” and clapped in unison as the players huddled. In the background, Cher’s one-time hit “Believe” played. The song features the lyrics “Do you believe in life after love?”
On the field, the teams shook hands. The Towson players gave their counterparts pins of an angel carrying a lacrosse stick and wished them well the rest of the season.
The emotionally charged game at Klockner Stadium turned when Brittany Kalkstein and Caity Whiteley scored in the last 3:54 to give Virginia a 13-11 lead. The Cavaliers (14-5) held on and will play at Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina next weekend.
Whiteley, who was one of Love’s roommates and found her body, scored three goals. She said she “wanted to play especially well just to honor her and her family.”
The Cavaliers started with three quick goals. Towson pulled ahead 5-4 before Virginia scored the next three. The Tigers tied it at 10 and 11, but never regained the lead.
Charlie Finnigan and Julie Gardner also scored three times each for Virginia. Towson got four goals from Jacie Kendall and three from Hillary Fratzke and Nikki Marcinik.
“They played a great game in spite of everything today, and that’s what we wanted from them,” Kendall said.
The Cavaliers were missing three starters because of torn knee ligaments. Myers has said that the longer the team can keep playing, the more the players can comfort each other. Men’s coach Dom Starsia said the same Saturday night after his top-seeded team advanced with an 18-4 drubbing of Mount St. Mary’s, also at Klockner Stadium.
In the crowd, fans unfurled a banner that said “1-2-3-4, together, Hoos,” a reminder of how Love once botched the team’s huddle-breaking cheers by counting to four instead of the usual three. Myers said at Love’s funeral her team will from now on count to four.