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The story plays out like a coming-of-age film: an English teenager sets out for the United States with a backpack and a lacrosse stick, hoping to find a spot on a Division I women’s lacrosse roster on a journey up and down the East Coast of the United States.

The heroine of the story is Virginia senior attacker Charlie Finnigan, who arrived in Charlottesville after one season at the University of Loughborough and became the Cavaliers’ first-ever international player.

“It started when I was 16 or 17 when I was playing on the England team,” Finnigan said. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could play lacrosse at a really high standard and lacrosse isn’t huge in England.I decided that America would be the best place for that.”

Finnigan earned a spot on the Cavalier roster and arrived on Grounds for the 2010 spring season. She brought with her a wealth of international experience, having played on England’s national squad and Under-19 World Cup squad.

Finnigan started 18 of the Cavaliers’ 20 games that season, scoring 34 goals and adding 15 assists. UVa advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament that season, and Finnigan found her first year of American lacrosse to be what she expected.

“It was exactly what I expected,” Finnigan said. “Other teammates that were at Maryland and James Madison used to always come back and tell us about everything. Obviously, it was very different because my first year at college at England, I practiced for an hour twice a week. They still took it seriously but it was also a fun social thing. I don’t think I expected there to be as much training and practicing as it was. But from what I heard, I knew it was going to be tough, but it was everything I expected.”

In her second season, Finnigan improved on her scoring totals, registering 43 goals and 14 assists as the Cavaliers again earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Now a fourth-year, Finnigan was named to the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list prior to the start of the 2012 season and the Cavaliers are off to a 4-4 start. She has eight goals and two assists through the first eight games of the season.

Finnigan has balanced her love of music with her athletic career during her time at Virginia, majoring in music and performing with UVa’s a capella group. While she would like to stay in the United States after graduation, she also has options in London.

“Ever since I was little, it has always been sports and music together,” Finnigan said. “After school I would go from orchestra rehearsal to lacrosse, so I would always be balancing the two. I did stop by doing kinesiology when I was at college in England, but I didn’t really enjoy it. So when I got here I decided to do music because I really wanted to. I have loved every single class that I have been in. It has been from jazz study to opera. It is just such a big span of different things. I was in a song writing class, which was really fun. I would have to write a new song for the class each week and perform it for them. I got to rap for them.”

Now three years into her American college experience, Finnigan and the Cavaliers host three more home contests after tonight’s game vs. James Madison.

She still holds the distinction of being UVa’s only international women’s lacrosse player, but the novelty of her English accent has worn off during her time on Grounds.

“My first year, definitely, I was like enough of the Charlie jokes,” Finnigan said. “I’m from London got really annoying, but now it has worn off. Except, I am really embarrassed to say ranch. Josie makes fun of me when I say it. When I say ranch everyone laughs. So when we are out and they ask if I want ranch or blue cheese, everyone looks at me and they’re like ‘say it, say it!'”

Finnigan and her teammates have embraced their differences but will look to unite down the stretch asthe Cavaliers seek another run at the ACC and NCAA Championships.

“Obviously, I want myself and the team to do as well as we can since it is my last season,” Finnigan said. “I really would like to enjoy every game as it comes, and not take things too quickly. Like many people have said, I do think this is one of the strongest teams I’ve been on since I have been here. I just want us to have fun and see how far we get.”

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