Senior Spotlight: Julie Gardner
Senior captain Julie Gardner’s high school lacrosse experience included being able to play two years with her older sister, Tara, and one year with her younger sister, Kendyl.
Now having started every game of her career at UVa (59), Gardner says the toughest decision she had to make was to not continue that sister-as-teammate bond in college.
“My sisters and I always played the same sports,” Gardner says. “We started playing field hockey when we were six or seven, and lacrosse when we were eight or nine. I always wanted to play on my older sister Tara’s teams so I started a little bit earlier than I was supposed to and would play up with her and play with her friends all the time. It was hard to decide where to go to college because I wanted to play with Tara, but I ultimately decided I couldn’t make that decision based on where she was going because I would only be with her for two years.”
Tara Gardner continued her career at Loyola, while Julie knew after her first official visit that UVa was her choice.
“I came here on my first official visit and I knew I wanted to be here,” Gardner says. “I loved the team, the campus, the lacrosse atmosphere. I loved everything about it.”
Not to be left out, Gardner’s younger sister Kendyl is beginning her lacrosse career at High Point University in North Carolina.
Gardner may not have ended up playing collegiately with her sisters, but to hear her describe her fellow fourth-year teammates, you can feel the familial bond.
“Ainsley [Baker] is the ‘mom’ – she’s cooking us Chicken Parm the night before the Syracuse game, she’s done it every year,” Gardner said. “Josie [Owen] will have your back no matter what and is a really great friend. Annie [Taylor]is hysterical, definitely a crowd-pleaser and Charlie [Finnigan] is just so nice. If you have any sort of problem you know she’ll talk you through it.”
Gardner and Owen were selected as team captains prior to the start of the 2012 season and expectations are high for a team that has started 2-0 with victories against then-No. 7 Loyola and Richmond.
“Josie and I have been playing a lot since first year and we work well together and balance each other out,” Gardner says. “Hopefully our leadership can take us deep into the postseason.”
Gardner began her career in 2009, and started all 19 games of her first year. She scored her first collegiate goal at Virginia Tech and enjoyed All-ACC Academic Team honors. The Cavaliers advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season, as they have in each of last 16, but fell in the first round at ACC rival Duke.
In Gardner’s second year, 2010, the Cavaliers finished 14-9 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Gardner recalls the first-round game against Towson as her most memorable as a Wahoo.
“The Towson game, after everything that had happened, coming back and playing as a team and having the senior class there would be my most memorable game,” Gardner said. “It was so draining but so rewarding to pull out such an emotional victory in the end.”
Last season Gardner had a breakout season, being named to the All-ACC team and the All-South Region squad. She was a third team All-America selection after tallying a team-high 60 points on 33 goals and 27 assists.
This season, Gardner has been named to the Tewaaraton Trophy women’s watch list, along with teammates Owen and Finnigan.
Like most seniors, Gardner is in a bit of denial as to her final season in Charlottesville beginning.
“I almost didn’t want the season to start because once it starts it doesn’t stop,” Gardner says. “I’m not going to have much time to reflect because it’s going to go by so quickly and it’s kind of sad. It’s exciting at the same time. We have a really good opportunity with the girls on this team so I can’t wait to see how we do.”