CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. | With memories of their slain teammate everywhere, the Virginia women’s lacrosse team played for the first time since the death of Yeardley Love.
With Love’s mother and sister in the stands, the Cavaliers rallied in the last four minutes to beat Towson 14-12 Sunday 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 okay,” 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.
On Sunday, they wore shirts under their jerseys with the phrase “One Team. One Heart. One Love.” The team also 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, calling the victory “a huge hurdle to clear,” in part because it also allows them to stay together for another week.
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, as 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 ended with a gritty victory by Virginia. Goals by Brittany Kalkstein and Caity Whiteley gave the Cavaliers a 13-11 lead with 3:54 to play, and the Cavaliers (14-5) held on to advance to the next round.
Whiteley, who was one of Love’s roommates and found her body, scored three goals, and 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 and stay together, 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 Moiunt 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, forever more, also count to four.
Virginia will play at Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina next weekend.