By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Two of the 10 saves goalkeeper Kim Kolarik made March 16 at Klöckner Stadium came in the final 84 seconds and helped UVa hold off Princeton 9-7 in women’s lacrosse.
Another came earlier in the second half, on a shot that broke the second metacarpal in Kolarik’s left hand. She suspected that it was more than a bruise, but Kolarik chose not to remove her glove and examine the hand.
“I’ve had injuries before, and I just know it’s better not to see what they look like when you’re in the middle of playing,” said Kolarik, a senior from Riva, Md., near Annapolis.
“Unfortunately, there was still about 10 minutes left, and both teams were calling timeouts, and I was just like, `Oh, my gosh, I just gotta get through these 10 minutes.’ And then after the game, my whole team ran over to me and they were like, `Kim, we won!’ Everyone’s jumping on me, and they were like, `Are you, OK?’ because I had tears in my eyes.”
Two days later, she went to see Dr. Bobby Chhabra, an orthopedic surgeon at UVa who’s renowned for his work with hands. Kolarik’s was broken, he determined. She didn’t take the news well.
“The second he told me that, I was crying,” Kolarik recalled with a smile. “I was like, `My season’s over!’ But then when I collected myself the next two days, I said, `You have to make the most of what happens to you.’ So that’s when I started trying to get more into practices with helping Liz and just helping the team any way I could, since I couldn’t be in goal.”
“When Kim was healthy, she was always willing to take extra shots, do anything that would help her and help our team win,” Myers said. “And then when she was injured, she completely changed her focus to help Liz, taking the confidence that she had in herself and really kind of giving that to Liz, so that the team would be OK.
“I think Liz would say that Kim was just remarkably supportive during that stretch. As hard as I’m sure it was for Kim to not be able to play and help us out, she really just turned all of her energy on.”
Her injury did not require surgery, but Kolarik missed seven games, four of which Virginia lost. Her final game as a spectator was a 9-8 loss to Johns Hopkins on April 11, a defeat that put the `Hoos in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in Myers’ 18 seasons as head coach.
“No one wants to hear, `Oh, you’re that Virginia team that didn’t make it into NCAAs,’ ” Kolarik said.
The Cavaliers avoided that fate with a late-season surge that coincided with Kolarik’s return to the lineup.
“She’s got so much experience over the course of four years that it just really makes everybody feel like we’ve been in every possible situation before, and Kim’s been an anchor to it all,” Myers said.
“It’s just another fourth-year kid that really helps strengthen that whole fourth-year class and their charge of trying to lead this team. I think at so many levels, on and off the field, Kim being healthy and playing well and being in the mix has definitely lifted the direction that we’re moving in and kept everything kind of connected and together.”
In their first game since the loss to Hopkins, with Kolarik back in the cage, the `Hoos closed the regular season with a 10-5 win over Virginia Tech at Klöckner. Virginia then upset Duke in the ACC tournament’s first round before losing to unbeaten Maryland in the semifinals.
UVa opened the NCAA tourney with a 12-6 rout of Penn in Washington, D.C. Two days later, again on Georgetown’s field, the Cavaliers defeated the sixth-seeded Hoyas 10-8.
“I just think the whole team’s peaking at the right time. I don’t think it has to do anything particularly with me,” said Kolarik, who singled out the play of classmates Lelan Bailey, Megan Dunleavy, Anne Thomas and Caroline McTiernan.
“I think all the seniors right now are really stepping up and leading,” Kolarik said, “and this is when we need them.”
Next up for Virginia (11-9) is a quarterfinal date with third-seeded North Carolina (15-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill. When the teams met there during the regular season, UNC edged UVa 8-7 on March 9.
“I think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit,” Kolarik said. “We could have definitely won that game. I think we had a few turnovers that were at crucial times that gave them a little more momentum. But I think for playing them that well then and seeing how far we’ve come, this weekend’s going to be a great game.”
The Cavaliers enjoyed preparing for and then taking on two opponents — Penn and Georgetown — they don’t typically play. Eventually, though, UVa knew it would encounter another ACC team in the NCAA, Myers said Tuesday, and “now this week it is kind of nice to have a familiar opponent, to know the names, know the numbers, know the tendencies.”
The timing of the game will allow the Cavaliers to be in Charlottesville for final exercises Sunday, and for that Kolarik and the team’s other fourth-years are thankful.
Kolarik will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history. After her UVa lacrosse career ends — whether it be Saturday in Chapel Hill or at next weekend’s NCAA final four in Villanova, Pa. — she plans to go into coaching, preferably at a Division I program.
For the past three years, Kolarik said, she’s coached with Chesapeake Club Lacrosse in the Annapolis area and at various camps.
“I just love coaching,” she said. “I feel like from the goalie perspective, you can really see the field, both attacking and defensively, and I love to help people and help lacrosse grow.”
Given the career path she intends to follow, it was no surprise, perhaps, that Kolarik received the Betty and Money Yates Award late last month. It’s awarded annually to a UVa women’s lacrosse player for service and dedication to the program.
“It goes to the kid who’s just really willing to do anything, above and beyond what’s expected,” Myers said, “a kid who does everything with good nature, good spirit and helps everybody else. “It’s just kind of a really unselfish award.”
Kolarik’s parents are University of Maryland alumni who hoped she would spend her college years in College Park, too. She liked the school, Kolarik said, but the Terrapins “had two goalies a year above me, and there just wasn’t really a path I wanted to take, and I came here for camp and fell in love with the school, fell in love with everything.”
Her passion for the University hasn’t waned. “I’ve loved every moment,” Kolarik said.