By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The site of this year’s final four for NCAA women’s lacrosse?
“Right in my hometown,” Brittany Kalkstein said with a smile.
Kalkstein, a graduate of Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, is doing everything she can to help fifth-ranked UVa make it to Towson. The fourth-year midfielder is the Cavaliers’ third-leading scorer, with 24 points, and she excels at one of the most important parts of the game.
Her specialty is draw controls. Like faceoffs in the men’s game, draw controls are held at the start of every period and after every goal, and they pit two players against each other at the center of the field.
A team that dominates draw controls typically gains a significant advantage, especially in an otherwise evenly matched game.
“It’s an extra chance to get a goal,” UVa coach Julie Myers said. “Anytime you give your team a chance to go on attack again, it’s huge. And if you can win the draw control after your opponent has scored, they don’t get a chance to score again.”
With 234 career draw controls, Kalkstein has smashed the previous school record of 195 set by Lauren Aumiller (2000 to ’03), with many more likely to come. Virginia (1-1, 6-3) plays No. 3 Duke (1-1, 9-1) in an ACC game Saturday afternoon in Durham, N.C.
Kalkstein stands 5-9, and her reach and strength help her control the ball after the whistle blows.
“I think she believes she’s going to win everything,” Myers said. “She doesn’t rattle, and she’s got really quick hands.”
Kalkstein, 21, has been a fixture in the Cavaliers’ lineup throughout her college career. She was ACC freshman of the year, and national rookie of the year, in 2007, and she made the ACC’s all-tournament team as a sophomore.
A season ago, after totaling a school-record 73 draw controls, she was named a third-team All-American.
“Her game sense has developed each and every year,” Myers said. “She’s a really tough-minded kid. She does not have great speed, but she does have great endurance. And by nature she wants the ball in her stick.”
Born in Washington, D.C., Kalkstein was raised in the lacrosse-mad Baltimore area, and she’s been playing the sport for as long as she can remember. She has three brothers, the youngest of whom played with current UVa lax star Steele Stanwick at Loyola Blakefield High in Towson.
She was a heralded recruit who also took official visits to Princeton, Georgetown and Notre Dame. Kalkstein chose UVa, she said, because “I thought it had the total package.”
In 2007, UVa advanced to the NCAA championship game. The Cavaliers made it back to the NCAAs in ’08 and ’09, but each of those seasons ended with a first-round loss.
For everyone connected to Virginia women’s lacrosse, the 2009 season was a struggle. The November 2008 suicide of former UVa men’s standout Will Barrow, with whom many of the women’s players were friends, shook Myers’ program, and “we had other distractions,” she said.
The ‘Hoos went 11-8, the first time in eight years they finished with fewer than 14 victories. The players weren’t always happy with the coaches, and vice versa, and it affected the team’s play.
“Last year we were really in a slump, and it was hard to break out,” said Kalkstein, an economics major. “There’s a completely different attitude and energy this year. Everyone’s fired up to be at practice, and that was definitely lacking last year.”
Lacrosse, Kalkstein said, is fun again. Myers agreed.
“I think every year you have a new personality and a new chemistry,” she said. “Last year was really tough, and I think the players and coaches all felt it. I think we all took a deep breath and evaluated what was really important.”