By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Three months have passed, but the pain of losing Yeardley Love persists for Julie Myers, UVa’s longtime women’s lacrosse coach. And so this has been a summer unlike any other for Myers and her program.
“I was telling [assistant coach] Colleen Shearer yesterday that something is missing, something is a little bit off,” Myers said Thursday in her McCue Center office.
“But we’re moving along, and we’re staying in touch with lots of people and with the Love family and with each other, and just trying to get our ducks in a row for the [coming school] year.”
An unfathomable tragedy shook UVa’s lacrosse teams — and the entire University community — in early May. That’s when Miss Love, a senior on Myers’ team, was found dead at her Charlottesville apartment. Police charged George Huguely, a member of the men’s team, with her murder. Huguely, who has been in jail since his arrest, is due back in court for a hearing Oct. 7.
Miss Love’s death still haunts Myers.
“I could cry right now,” she said. “Tears are never far away, and I would say that they still happen. But there’s always something that makes you smile about her, too. With the hard times, there’s always something that can lighten the mood, too.”
The bond between UVa’s lacrosse teams is exceptionally strong, and, with the blessing of Miss Love’s family, each decided to participate in the NCAA tournament. The women advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated; the men, to the semifinals.
When there were no more games to play, Myers’ players scattered, as is customary. But this summer has been different.
“I would say that almost two-thirds of our team was together for some type of summer school, whether here or abroad,” Myers said. “And the ones that haven’t done summer school have been doing camps together. So they’ve definitely stayed in touch and in the loop more often and in larger groups than in years past.”
Myers has remained in contact not only with her players, but with Sharon Love, Yeardley’s mother. Myers regularly talks to Sharon Love or visits her in Baltimore.
“I’ve actually brought my kids up there,” Myers said. “She’s got a great sense of humor, so when we’re together time flies and we laugh. She’s become a good friend through all of this … Obviously, these circumstances and just the pain and the rawness of it all has brought us together. In a lot of ways I was the adult in town that saw Yeardley when Sharon didn’t. I think that connects us as well.”
Myers has three children — Kelsey, Timmy and Kevin — who are members of the UVa lacrosse family too. So Miss Love’s death deeply affected them, especially when they saw the toll it took on their mother, who had to shepherd her grief-stricken players through final exams and the team’s trip to Baltimore for the funeral and also prepare the Cavaliers for the NCAAs — all with the national media camped out in Charlottesville.
“I would say that my kids definitely felt it,” Myers said. “But Yeardley is still kind of a household name that comes up every day, and we do have pictures of the team from different years and different occasions on our refrigerator in our house. They’ll look at Yeards every day and say good morning to her or to the team or something like that.
“They talk about it a lot, which is nice. But you know, the other day my 5-year-old, Kevin, did a robot dance, and I just laughed, and Kevin said, ‘Mom, that’s the first time I’ve heard you laugh in a long time.’ So that kind of got you a little bit.”
The family vacationed on Fripp Island in South Carolina, “where we just kind of went and left the computer behind and tried to tuck away for a little bit,” Myers recalled. “So that was great, but not long enough. We got back and on the second day the kids were like, ‘Let’s go back to Fripp where you don’t have to work.’ “
Exhaustion overwhelmed her last month, but Myers has started to look ahead to fall ball and the new school year.
“I’m getting there,” she said. “I need July to last three months, but now is where, a few days into August, I do get more excited. I’ve seen more kids trickle through town, getting their apartments ready, or their houses. I had lunch with a bunch of the kids that were here for summer school. I’ve been e-mailing with a bunch of the kids that are coming in, making sure that all their ducks are in a row for eligibility.
“So having all these little touches about different things has really helped to get me more excited. And it’ll be exciting to have a new coach. We’ll have some time to plan some systems and some sequences and figure out what we can do and how we can kind of re-energize everybody.”
After 15 seasons as a part-time assistant on Myers’ staff, former UVa star Heather Dow has decided to concentrate on her teaching at Jack Jouett Middle School.
“That was always her real job,” Myers said. “This was always her fun job. It will be the first time I’ve ever coached without Heather on my sideline.”
This will also be the first time that Myers, who like Dow starred for the Wahoos, has had a second full-time assistant. Interviews are under way, Myers said.
From a team that finished 14-6, Virginia must replace several key seniors, including Kaitlin Duff, Caity Whiteley and Brittany Kalkstein. Moreover, three players who tore ACLs last season — attackers Ainsley Baker and Josie Owen and defender Bailey Fogarty — are still rehabbing, though they’re expected to be ready for the 2011 season.
“So they’ll miss fall ball, and we’ll have 10 new kids,” Myers said. “So it’ll be a different group than what we’re used to.”
The ‘Hoos continue to mourn the loss of Miss Love, and they’ll forever cherish memories of her. Myers believes, though, that it’s important for the team to keep looking ahead.
“Yeardley wouldn’t want us to just stop and start treading water,” Myers said. “She’d want us to clearly keep her in our hearts and minds, but probably deeper in our hearts, and just kind of keep moving forward. That’s important to everyone.
“People go through loss and life can be really hard, and it’s how you respond. We’re committed to keeping Yeards and her family in our hearts, but still staying on task and on target and laughing when we can.”