by Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE –– As a University of Virginia undergraduate and now as an alumna, Amy Appelt Slade has experienced many more highs than lows as a passionate supporter of Cavalier athletics. There have been moments, though, she could have done without.
Known as Amy Appelt during her days as an All-American in head coach Julie Myers’ lacrosse program at Virginia, she married Jermaine Slade five years ago. Her husband, who’s related to former UVA football great Chris Slade, played that sport at the University of Richmond from 1998 to 2002 and still pulls for the Spiders.
He had plenty to celebrate on Sept. 3, 2016. UR spoiled Bronco Mendenhall’s debut as UVA’s head football coach that day, winning 37-20 at Scott Stadium.
“I vaguely remember literally crying and thinking, ‘I’m never going to live this down,’ ” Amy said. “It was a huge thing for my husband, and I was happy for him, and so angry at the same time.”
Then there was the hoops game that Slade won’t soon rather forget. She’s the head women’s lacrosse coach at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, whose staff she joined as an assistant in August 2009. Her employer, of course, made history at her alma mater’s expense in March 2018.
In Charlotte, N.C., UMBC stunned Virginia 74-54 to become the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“Did I catch grief?” Slade asked, laughing. “I have a Virginia tattoo on my ankle, so, yes, I caught a ton of grief. I think if you ask any of my friends––or if you ask Julie or even colleagues here––I’m the ultimate Wahoo. Virginia is so deeply imbedded in my heart and my soul, and so it was tough. It was really a tough pill to swallow.
“The flip side of it, I was so proud and happy for my [lacrosse] team. My girls got to feel what it felt like to have a team to really, really cheer for, and UMBC is a really small school in the sports world. And so for them to really see this school that they go to be put on this public platform was really, really amazing. They took great pride in that, and to me that was really awesome, because I know I take great pride in being a Virginia Cavalier, and we’re all over the place. You can say you went to UVA, and everyone knows what that means. For these girls to get that opportunity to feel really passionate and powerful about going to UMBC, and seeing the school do something that no one has ever been able to do, and then feel like they’re a part of that, that was really special to me.
“It was unfortunate that it had to be against my Wahoos, but I kept my mouth closed for a full year, and that next day last April”–– after Virginia defeated Texas Tech for the NCAA title––“I walked in with the biggest smile across my face, and not one person has said anything to me since.”
Slade and her husband have two sons and a daughter, all under the age of 5. “And then I have 32 18-to 21-year-olds [at UMBC],” she said, laughing.
The Slades live in Rodgers Forge, Md., near Towson. They met on a blind date set up by the Chasney sisters. Cary Chasney had played lacrosse with Amy at UVA, and Katie Chasey had played lacrosse at Richmond, where she became good friends with Jermaine, who grew up in Philadelphia.
This has been a spring unlike any other for Slade, who graduated from UVA in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in English. In March, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down college sports and sent UMBC’s players and coaches home. Then last month, Slade learned that she’d been chosen for the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Slade was unfamiliar with the selection process and didn’t even know she’d been nominated.
“I think it was a Monday in mid to late May, and I got a voicemail from a woman who said she was calling from US Lacrosse,” Slade recalled. “She kind of posed it like, ‘I want to talk to you about how you’re handling the pandemic,’ and I thought nothing of it, because obviously I’m a lacrosse coach in Baltimore in the heart of a pandemic, and our team is not getting its season. And so it took me a little while to call her back, because I had the kids hanging off me and this and that. When she told me, I was like, ‘Oh, I was not expecting that at all.’ ”
That Slade is headed to the Hall of Fame surprises no one who remembers her playing career. If not the greatest player in UVA history, she’s without question the most dominant offensively.
Slade, who grew up on Long Island, N.Y., ranks first in career goals (258) and career points (373) at UVA, well ahead of Lauren Aumiller, who’s second in each category (217 goals and 320 points). Slade, who scored at least one goal in 66 consecutive games, ranks second in career assists (115) at Virginia.
The ACC’s rookie of the year in 2002, Slade was a second-team All-American in 2003 and a first-team selection in 2004 and 2005. In 2004, she received the Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding player. Slade scored a school-record 90 goals that season.
In 2003, the Cavaliers advanced to the NCAA championship game, where they lost in overtime to Princeton. The 2004 NCAA title game featured a rematch, and two-time defending champion Princeton entered on a 28-game winning streak.
That didn’t faze the Hoos, who trounced the Tigers 10-4 at Princeton.
“The year prior hurt so badly that I think it stayed with us for 364 days,” Slade said. “And on the 365th day we were ready.”
As a senior in 2005, Slade led the Cavaliers back to the NCAA championship game, where they lost 13-10 to Northwestern.
Of her lacrosse experience at UVA, Slade said, “I think sometimes you take it for granted when you look back at it. But you build amazing relationships, and in her 25 years there Julie Myers has recruited people that have a genuine love for each other. Obviously, she doesn’t know that we’re really going to love each other when we come in, but she has a really great feel on players that are really going to grow and love Virginia and love the culture of Virginia and the University itself.
“That’s something that’s really, really special, and I really try to emulate it every day in my recruiting life. Are these girls going to be passionate about UMBC the same way I was passionate about my teammates and the University of Virginia?”
Slade’s best friend is Jessy Morgan, with whom she played at UVA, and she remains close to many other former teammates and classmates. She’s also in regular contact with former UVA associate head coach Colleen Shearer.
“I talk to Colleen probably more than I talk to my own mom, to be honest,” Slade said, “because we have a lot of things in common we’re talking about. Colleen and Julie have gone from being those mother figures to those parental figures to those friend figures.”
Slade said she and some of her former UVA teammates take a trip every year “to somewhere tropical in the middle of January. We all have two or more kids, and we all have really high-powered jobs, and we leave our kids with our husbands and we leave our jobs behind to spend five days together, because that’s important to us.”
As an undergraduate, Slade was reminded every time she walked into the McCue Center that UVA athletics was pursuing Uncompromised Excellence, “and to this day that is so ingrained in me,” she said. “Every time I do something, or every time I want to put my heart and soul into something, those words are constantly flashing in front of me, and I’m like, OK, I get it.”
After graduating from the University, Slade spent two years working for Bounce Entertainment, a company run by former Princeton lacrosse player Crista Samara, and helping stage camps and clinics and tournaments around the country.
She returned to Charlottesville and worked alongside Myers and Shearer as a volunteer assistant in 2007. “After that was done, I decided I really did like this lacrosse thing,” Slade said. “I moved back to New York and really started to refine my private training business, and really got into that for almost about a year.”
She eventually relocated to the Baltimore area to be closer to friends from UVA. Slade learned about an opening on the UMBC coaching staff. She applied for the position and was offered the job, “and I haven’t left since,” she said.
Slade, who’s not related to current UVA men’s lacrosse player Jackson Appelt, also is an assistant coach with the Baltimore Brave, which competes in the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League. The Brave, whose general manager is Morgan, won the WPLL championship game. The league is on hiatus this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slade said, but plans to resume play in 2021.
At UMBC, Slade’s assistant coaches include another former UVA standout, Morgan Stephens, who lettered from 2012-15 in Myers’ program.
“When I first moved to the Baltimore area, I had a personal-training company where I did a lot of private lacrosse training,” Slade recalled, “and Morgan’s dad was actually the first guy that reached out to me.”
Slade said she worked with Stephens “four or five times.” Stephens, who starred at Good Counsel High School, eventually narrowed the colleges she was considering to two: UVA and Florida.
“I remember Julie Myers calling me and saying, ‘Do you know this girl Morgan Stephens?’ And I said, ‘Yes! She’s so fast and so quick, you need to recruit her,’ ” Slade recalled.
When Slade started looking for an assistant coach after the 2015 season, she asked Myers if she had any recommendations. Stephens’ name came up immediately.
Slade laughed. “Before you know it, she’s now Aunt Morgie to my kids and lives with my sister.”
The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 consists of Slade, Rob Bordley, Roy Condon, John Desko, Ericka Leslie, Lisa Griswold Lindley, Laura Harmon Schuman and Joe Seivold. They’ll be inducted in a ceremony on Oct. 17 in Hunt Valley, Md. The Hall of Fame is located in nearby Sparks, Md.