By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Twenty-two seasons, twenty-two trips to the NCAA tournament. Seven appearances in the NCAA championship game. One NCAA title.
Under Julie Myers, the University of Virginia women’s lacrosse team’s hallmark has been success, and more is expected this season. Still, there’s something different about these Cavaliers. For the first time in Myers’ 23 seasons as head coach at her alma mater, not all of her captains are seniors.
A midfielder from Alexandria, Jackson was a second-team All-American in 2017. But her statistics — 41 goals, 33 assists, 57 ground balls, 71 draw controls — don’t tell the full story of Jackson’s value to the Wahoos.
Jackson’s passion and energy, in every setting, are contagious, Myers said. “She’s like that in the weight room, at a meal, on the bus. She sees the good in people and feels good about herself, and it just all comes out.”
It’s not just that Jackson is a vocal leader, Myers said. “She does it in a really inclusive way, so she doesn’t get under people’s skins at all. Kids really do rally around her.”
A graduate of Georgetown Visitation Prep in Washington, D.C., Jackson was a high school All-American. Even so, Myers wasn’t sure what to expect from her in 2016. But Jackson ended up starting 16 of the Cavaliers’ 18 games and led the team with 39 draw controls.
“We knew she was a natural player and true middie,” Myers said. “What we didn’t realize was how hard she was going to work.
“I think Maggie works as hard as anyone I’ve ever had. But the thing about Maggie is, she trains that hard whether anyone is watching or not. That’s what, to me, separates Maggie from other kids.”
Heading into her freshman season, Jackson recalled, “Everyone was like, ‘Are you going to play?’ Everyone always says that when you’re going to college, and I had no idea. But by the beginning of the season, the coaches were like, ‘You’re probably going to get some time.’ I wasn’t expecting to get much. I was expecting to get a few runs every couple games. But I guess an opportunity arose and I ended up starting, and that surprised me.
“I was a first-year, and I was just doing what I was told. I was excited about it, but it was unexpected.”
She’s embraced her leadership role. It dawned on her over the course of last season, Jackson said, “that I wasn’t the freshman on the field any more, that I had a year under my belt that [other] people may not have. And then this year, being an upperclassman, I think also puts more responsibility on me, and I’m excited for it, and hopefully it’ll turn out well.”
As a sophomore, Jackson led the Cavaliers, who finished with a 12-9 record, in points, ground balls and draw controls and tied for the lead in assists. From a team standpoint, however, it wasn’t the season Jackson envisioned.
It started with a stunning loss to Elon, which won 11-10 at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers later avenged that defeat, dispatching Elon 11-9 in the NCAA tournament’s first round. Two days later, however, UVA’s season ended with a 23-12 loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“I’m excited for the upcoming season,” Jackson said. “We have a full returning midfield line, with me, Kasey and Sammy, so I hope that we’ll be strong.”
For the second straight season, UVA will open with Elon. The teams meet Saturday at 1 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium, and there’s little danger of the 14th-ranked ‘Hoos looking past the Phoenix.
“We keep getting reminded of what happened last season for our first game,” Jackson said. “I think that it’s just motivation for us moving forward and for the upcoming season.”
The Cavaliers close the regular season April 21 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. That series carries special meaning for Jackson, who previews the season in this Orange & Blue Report. Her twin brother, Griffin, attends Tech. (Their older brother, Matthew, is a Tech alumnus.)
“We’ve always been really competitive with each other, so I don’t think that it was anything new for us,” Jackson said of the twins’ finding themselves on opposite sides of a rivalry.
As a Cavalier, Jackson is 2-0 against the Hokies. When the schools meet, she said, her brother has “decided that he has to root for Virginia in lacrosse, but everything else he’s full VT.”
Griffin will sit with their parents in the UVA cheering section during games, but he wears neutral clothing in that setting.
“I don’t think his friends [at Tech] could see him in Virginia stuff,” Jackson said, laughing.
A foreign affairs major, Jackson is active in her sorority at UVA, Kappa Alpha Theta, and has volunteered at local elementary schools through the A.C.E. program (Athletes Committed to Community and Education).
“Last spring I would do it on Friday mornings, so that would often be before we got on the bus to go on away trips,” Jackson said. “I think that really helped me to clear my mind and give to something better before I went and focused on my own game.”
Jackson is one of three players on the UVA roster from Georgetown Visitation Prep, along with Ana Hagerup and Martin. Hagerup is a senior and Martin a sophomore.
“On attack it’s funny,” Jackson said, “because Ana and I still have the same chemistry that we had in high school. She likes to feed me, or I’ll look and see her cutting, so it’s really cool to have that carryover.”
Jackson also played field hockey in high school. When she decided to focus on lax, her college decision was easy.
She attended a lacrosse camp at UVA when she was in middle school. “I remember getting a tour around the locker rooms and everything and realizing that I wanted to go here, but I never knew that it could be a reality,” Jackson said.
“So during the recruiting process, I kept my options open and visited a bunch of different schools, including, yeah, Virginia Tech, but they didn’t have the [combination of] lacrosse program and academics that we have here. So when the offer [from Myers] came, I knew I couldn’t turn it down.”