By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE –– Nora Bowen picked up lacrosse as a second-grader in Northern Virginia. Her first sticks were gifts from sisters Julie and Jenny Hauser, who played at the University of Virginia and whose father works with Bowen’s father.
Is it any wonder Nora Bowen grew up dreaming of attending UVA?
“I just wanted to follow in their footsteps,” she said.
Bowen, a graduate of Woodgrove High School in Loudoun County, is living her dream. Now in her third year at UVA. she starts on attack for the women’s lacrosse team, which has reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
“It definitely has exceeded my expectations,” Bowen said of her UVA experience, “just with the friendships I’ve made and having so much fun on and off the field. It’s just been a blast.”
At noon Saturday, sixth-seeded Virginia (13-6) meets third-seeded North Carolina (16-3), the ACC champion, in Chapel Hill. UNC edged UVA 13-12 on the same field on March 9. If the Cavaliers can avenge that loss, they’ll advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2014.
“The energy in the room and on the field has been really good,” Virginia head coach Julie Myers said. “[The players are] are excited. They’ve got nothing to lose, and they feel like they’re prepared and they’re ready to give it their best chance.”
UVA reached the quarterfinals with a 15-12 victory over Navy at Klöckner Stadium last Sunday. Bowen scored two goals to help the Wahoos defeat the Midshipmen for the second time this year. For the season, she’s fifth on the team with 33 points (28 goals, five assists).
Bowen contributed two points (on two goals) as a freshman and six points (on six goals) last season. Of the Cavaliers’ attackers, only senior Avery Shoemaker (50 goals, 16 assists) has more points than Bowen this season. Bowen scored a career-high four goals on April 20 in Virginia’s comeback victory over Virginia Tech.
“She’s taken a huge jump this year, because Avery has drawn so much attention,” Myers said. “Nora is way ahead of where she was last year, and I would imagine the same will be true again next year.”
Julie Hauser graduated from UVA in 2006 and Jenny Hauser in ’09. (They’re not related to Anna Hauser, a junior midfielder on this year’s Virginia team.) Their father, John Hauser, “knows everybody,” Myers said, laughing, and he suggested that the Cavaliers follow Bowen’s progress in the sport.
“Whenever one of my current families can vouch for another family in terms of being a good fit for the program, for the University, and just for everything that we try to do, we’re always excited by that,” Myers said.
As the Hauser sisters had before her, Bowen starred for the Capital Lacrosse Club, so “she very quickly became a very familiar name and player to us,” Myers said, “and somebody that we [recruited] pretty early.”
In late June 2013, not long after her freshman year at Woodgrove ended, Bowen committed to UVA, which several members of her extended family attended.
“When you find a kid that has the lacrosse IQ and the work ethic and the hand skills that Nora had, we really didn’t feel like we were taking much of a risk,” Myers said. “She’s an in-state kid, she had always loved Virginia, and she had followed our program as a player and with her family for so long.”
Other schools also were recruiting her, Bowen recalled, “but I was talking to my dad about it, and I was like, ‘UVA has always been that school for me and where I wanted to go.’ It was a no-brainer.”
Bowen is something of a rarity in Myer’s program: a graduate of a public school in Virginia. (Senior goalie Ashley Morris also attended Woodgrove.) Most of the top players in the D.C. metropolitan area attend such private schools as St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, Georgetown Visitation Prep, and Bishop Ireton.
The caliber of lacrosse played in public schools around the state, especially in Northern Virginia, is “getting better,” Myers said. “It’s just slow going, because you lose good kids to top private schools all the time.”
Bowen led Woodgrove to three straight state titles. The Wolverines rarely were tested before the state playoffs, she said. “When I played club, the games were a lot closer, a lot more aggressive, more intense.”
In high school and in club lacrosse, Bowen played in the midfield, but the Hoos were well-stocked at that position when she joined the program. And so she moved to attack at UVA.
“We were excited to be able to kind of simplify her role as a first-year, and she’s really taken off with it,” Myers said.
Bowen’s play for Capital answered any questions about her ability to compete in Division I. Still, the transition to the college game proved challenging for Bowen.
“That first year, it’s definitely an eye-opening experience,” she said. “It’s a lot different coming from high school, especially where I played, to a program like UVA and the level of competition [in the ACC]. I think each year, though, playing with my teammates has made me a better player.”
Myers said: “It’s not uncommon, especially for a [first-year] attacker, to have learn how the ball moves and how you can get your teammates free as you get yourself free. There’s a lot of moving parts to it when you get to college.”
While Bowen was heading into middle school, her family moved from Great Falls, a suburb about 20 miles outside Washington, to Lovettsville, a Loudoun City town of about 2,100 residents. Lovettsville is about 55 miles northwest of D.C., which meant long drives to and from club team practices for Bowen.
“It’s very different than what we had before, but it’s beautiful,” Bowen said. “We really like it.”
Jenny Hauser, with whom Bowen has stayed in touch, attended law school after graduating from UVA. “I’m kind of interested in that path, too,” Bowen said.
A sociology major, Bowen has an internship this summer with Curran Moher Weis, a law firm in Fairfax. “I think it’ll be a good experience to see what that kind of work is like,” Bowen said.
Her internship will start, she said, once her lacrosse season ends. Bowen is in no hurry to head to Fairfax. She hopes to be in Baltimore next weekend, playing in the Final Four.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Bowen said of Saturday’s game in Chapel Hill. “It would be huge to upset Carolina and go to the Final Four.I think we all have confidence that we can. Everyone believes in each other.”