By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Chris Bocklet loved his time at the University of Virginia, on and off the lacrosse field, and his family was well aware of his affection. And so when his youngest sibling, Casey, decided after the 2011-12 school year to leave Northwestern University, there was little doubt where she would end up.
Casey remembered her parents saying that Chris, on the eve of his graduation from UVa last spring, told them, “I did it right the last four years.”
Talk about an effective sales pitch. “I heard that and I was like, `I definitely want to go there,’ ” Casey recalled recently.
As a freshman attacker last season, Casey was the fourth-leading scorer on a Northwestern team that won the NCAA women’s lacrosse title for the seventh time in eight years. She liked the Big Ten school, Casey said, “but it wasn’t for me, exactly. I knew because of my brothers” — each of whom played college lacrosse — “that there was more out there for me. College is all about the whole package, and I just didn’t feel that at Northwestern.”
The leading scorer for last year’s UVa women’s team, Josie Owen, dates Casey’s brother Matt and has grown close with the Bocklet family. Still, Virginia coach Julie Myers was surprised by Casey’s decision to transfer.
“Here and there Josie would say, `Oh, I love Casey, it’s such a nice family, blah, blah, blah,’ ” Myers said this week, “but certainly not in any way, shape or form did she say Casey she wasn’t happy at Northwestern or would want to come here.”
On May 27, Bocklet scored a goal in Northwestern’s 8-6 win over Syracuse in the NCAA title game at Stony Brook, N.Y. About two weeks later, Myers recalled, she learned that Casey had been granted her release by Northwestern and wanted to visit UVa.
“She pretty much dropped in our lap,” Myers said.
Casey’s timing was impeccable. The Cavaliers needed a replacement for Owen, who had 42 goals and 35 assists in 2012.
“After losing Josie Owen to graduation, and just really getting used to having an awesome quarterback running the show, I think Casey is the perfect player to take over that role,” Myers said.
“She plays great and clearly has been born and raised watching lots of lacrosse, and lots of men’s lacrosse. Her moves are unbelievable, her lines going to goal and going to feed are awesome as well, and it’s just instinct to her.”
The oldest of the Bocklet brothers, Mike, played attack at Fairfield University. The middle brother, Matt, a defender and long-stick midfielder, spent two years at Fairfield before transferring to Johns Hopkins. Chris played attack at UVa and finished his career with 137 goals, fifth-most in the program’s history.
“That’s a real lacrosse family,” Starsia said of the Bocklets, whose home is in South Salem, N.Y., about 55 miles from New York City.
It was almost inevitable, then, that Casey would pursue the sport.
“I’ve seen a crazy amount of men’s lacrosse games,” she said, laughing.
Chris said: “With three older brothers, she kind of wanted to do everything we were doing, just like I wanted to do everything my brothers did. Growing up, she was always a real tough girl. With brothers that are always playing sports, it happens.”
Unlike her brothers, Chris said, Casey was blessed with speed. She takes after their mother, Terry, a former track star.
Casey is “extremely fast, and strong, too, which makes her just a tremendous player in the women’s game,” Chris said by phone from Colorado, where he and Matt play for Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws.
At Northwestern, Casey totaled 13 goals and 22 assists (only six fewer than Chris had in his UVa career) in 2012. She’s already assumed a leading role for the Wahoos, who are coming off an 11-8 season that ended with a loss to Duke in the NCAA tournament’s first round.
“We’re an infinitely better attacking team with Casey Bocklet joining us,” said Myers, whose team opens the season Feb. 16 against Loyola (Md.) in Baltimore.
“She’s definitely our best attacker. She’s definitely going to be running the show in the back. She’s going to be getting everyone involved as well as scoring goals for us.”
At Northwestern, Casey played next to All-America attacker Shannon Smith, who finished the season with 66 goals and 28 assists.
“She was more of a dodger from behind,” Casey said, “and I was more of a feeder. But this year I’m pretty excited, because it seems like my role is going to be a little big bigger, and I’ll be able to dodge and feed.”
Myers said: “She’ll certainly have that piece of her game, where she just kind of plays a great chess game with the defense. If you pressure her, she’s gonna light you up. If you don’t pressure her, she’s gonna feed through you.”
In the winter of her junior year at John Jay High School, Casey attended a camp at UVa, where the staff was interested in her. Not long after returning home, however, the 5-foot-4 Casey committed to Northwestern.
“We had no idea that she was going to commit so quickly and so early,” Myers said, “and before we knew it she was gone.”
UVa’s coaches liked Casey’s potential back then, but they weren’t blown away by her game. That’s no longer the case.
“She was good as a junior in high school,” Myers said. “She’s phenomenal as a second-year in college. She has gotten really, really good and really dynamic and impressive and strong pretty quickly.”
To pick up Casey as a transfer “was hugely lucky on our part,” Myers said. “I think Chris having such a great career here with Dom, and the family really enjoying Virginia, and Josie’s relationship with Casey, certainly helped us, in terms of getting Casey to come to Virginia.”
Leaving a dynasty such as Northwestern was not easy, said Casey, who acknowledged that she improved as a player there. Still, she said, “I knew it was the right decision. You only have four years, and I wanted to be able to enjoy myself, and Northwestern just wasn’t the right place for me.”
She arrived at UVa in August. At first “it was tough, because it was almost like freshman year all over again, trying to find my classes and meet people,” said Casey, who lives with two other transfers: midfielders Sally Jentis (Florida) and Caroline Seats (Georgetown).
“But the girls have been really welcoming, and so have the coaches, and they’ve made it pretty easy to change. I don’t even feel like a transfer anymore. I just feel like this is where I fit.”
Her first season at UVa will include an April 7 game against Northwestern at Klöckner Stadium.
“I don’t think it is going to be awkward,” Casey said, “because I am still good friends with the girls on the team. I think it will be really exciting and fun to play against them, especially since they are coming to UVa.”
Chris plans to attend that game. That his sister ended up in Charlottesville delights him.
“I loved Virginia. It was the perfect place for me,” Chris said. “In the end, I’m happy we can share being Cavaliers together. I think that’s a special thing for a brother and sister.”