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March 29, 2006

Three. Twelve. One. Five hundred.

All of these numbers describe the women’s lacrosse program at the University of Virginia in one way or another, but lacrosse is not just about numbers. It is about the synergy of the numbers–the idea that the total package is so much greater than the sum of the individual parts, the concept that the program transcends the number of wins, number of national players of the year, or the number of varsity contests played in school history. Women from the Virginia lacrosse program have carried the legacy of the orange and blue to a number of distinguished careers both on and off the field, as mothers and model citizens, as high school and collegiate coaches, as doctors and teachers.

Yet tonight we celebrate the playing of the 500th contest in school history, and it affords fans and alumnae alike the opportunity to reflect on the history of one of the most storied programs in lacrosse history. An easy way to start is with well, the numbers.

Virginia is the seventh school under the current Division I format to play 500 games. The Cavaliers rank third all-time with 363 wins and are second all-time in winning percentage (73.2%). The Cavaliers have been to the national tournament (AIAW and NCAA) 20 times, winning three national titles (1991, 1993, 2004).

In the NCAA Championships, the Hoos rank second in games played (40) and semifinal and final appearances, third in games won (25), and fourth in winning percentage.

Virginia has led the nation statistically four times as a team, including team defense in 1998 before an incredible run of three consecutive years as the top scoring team in the nation from 2002-2004.

Twelve women have earned National Player of the Year honors, including Amy Appelt, who was named the Honda Sports Award and Tewaaraton Trophy recipient in 2004. Four women–Michelle Cusimano, Peggy Boutilier, Lauren Aumiller and Amy Appelt–were twice named National Player of the Year. Eleven times a `Hoo has led the nation in a statistical category, including scoring three consecutive years as Aumiller (2002, 2003) and Appelt (2004) gave the Cavaliers a stranglehold on that category. Lindsey Sheehan, who held the national record for career assists upon her graduation, led the nation her third and fourth years, and still ranks as the top point producer in points per game, at 7.81 points per game in her storied career. Appelt holds the national record for consecutive games with a goal, an eye-popping 66 that covered the entirety of her first three years in the orange and blue.

Forty-nine women have earned All-American honors, many of them having been recognized in more than one season. Five student-athletes have been named to the National Rookie Squad, including Appelt, who was the National Rookie of the Year in 2002. Morgan Thalenberg was honored as the National Unsung Hero of the Year in 2004, helping the Cavaliers to the national title.Virginia’s success translates off the field as well. Libby Hoyle was presented the IWLCA Community Service Award in 1999, recognizing her contributions outside of lacrosse. Nineteen Hoos have been named to the IWLCA Academic Honor Roll, and the 2003 team was designated a Merit Squad in the first year of such honors, recognizing teams that had achieved a team GPA of 3.0. Four Cavaliers, including Tyler Leachman (’06) have earned the Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate Scholarship from the ACC, recognizing their excellence in the classroom as well as on the field. Five Virginia student-athletes have earned ACC Scholar Athlete Awards, including Amy Fromal (’99) and Lauren Aumiller (’03) who were both named as Academic All-Americans by CoSIDA, having been chosen from female student-athletes across all sports. Interestingly, both Fromal and Aumiller were first team All-Americans those years as well.

The Virginia lacrosse program has been well-represented at our own institution, as nine times a Virginia lacrosse student-athlete has been named the IMP Female Student-Athlete of the Year. Three lacrosse players have won the Jettie Hill Award for the top GPA among fourth-year student-athletes, and Peggy Boutilier was named the SAM of the Year as well as the Ernest Ern Award recipient, recognizing her contributions to student life.

In addition, Virginia lacrosse has been one of the most storied contributors to the USA lacrosse program. A Cavalier has been on a national team every year starting with Maggie MacInnes, who was selected in 1980. In 1986 MacInnes and Heather Dow were on the USA World Cup team.

Dow’s selection to the team in 1984 started a lifelong association with the USA program that has been unmatched. After winning a gold medal in 1989, Dow was named an assistant coach to the program and helped the USA win gold in 1993, 1997 and 2001. During her tenure with the USA program, the Americans won four gold medals and two silvers, making her the most decorated woman in IFWLA World Cup history. She was named the Goalie of the Century by US Lacrosse.

Cherie Greer was a member of four of those teams, starting as the only undergraduate on the team in 1993. In 1997 she started the sequence in overtime that led to the game-winning goal and earned Player of the Match honors in the gold medal game for the first time in her career. She repeated the honor in 2001 as the Americans defended their title, crushing the Aussies in England. That year Greer was the inaugural recipient of the Wes Patterson Award, recognizing excellence in play, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport. Greer was also named to the All-Century team.Dow and Julie Williams were both part of the US Hall of Fame Class in 2002, the first two Cavaliers named to the national Hall of Fame. In the following year, Jane Miller was inducted. Ten Cavaliers, including first varsity coach Linda Southworth, have been inducted into the Charlottesville/Virginia Hall of Fame.

When Southworth led her charges to the game against William and Mary on March 19, 1976, little did she know that the program she started would become the powerhouse that it is today. It is fitting perhaps that the Cavaliers face James Madison in the program’s 500th varsity contest as these two schools have faced each other more than 30 times in the 29 years of existence of the Virginia program. Through 500 games, the Cavaliers have established a continuing legacy of excellence on and off the field. Dozens of women have graduated from Virginia and entered the coaching profession, from the collegiate level to the rec league level, looking to spread the sport that has meant so much to each of the student-athletes that have worn the orange and blue.

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