With a team of fast, skilled, tenacious and hungry players, Julie Myers and her staff have a pretty good idea about how to achieve a successful season.
“We’re talented enough that our goals as coaches are just to not mess it up,” Myers says and laughs.
Things might not be quite that simple, but the Cavaliers—runners-up last year for the national title—see an NCAA championship as a brass ring very much within their reach.
“I think we probably have better speed across the board than ever,” says Myers, who has won national titles as a player (1991), assistant coach (1993) and head coach (2004). “I think we saw how far hard work could take us last year, and we’re all kind of carrying that chip of, ‘We need to do a little more.’”
Last season’s finale could hardly have been more exciting. Virginia rallied late in the game to draw within one goal, 14-13, but Northwestern clinched its third consecutive title by scoring with less than three minutes remaining. The Wildcats wrested the trophy from UVA in 2005, and the Cavs would like to return the favor in 2008.
Third-year Ashley McCulloch will help quarterback the attack, a role filled last season by All-Americans Kate Breslin and Jess Wasilewski, both of whom graduated.
Establishing ball control is vital, McCulloch says. “To be good at ball movement, you really have to know how your teammates around you play, and we knew that with Kate and Jess. So I think with them gone, it’s all about becoming comfortable with new players at attack and getting to know their tendencies.”
Fourth-years Kendall McBrearty in goal and Megan O’Malley on attack look to be leaders. O’Malley exemplifies the work ethic Myers hopes will spur the team. “We need to push ourselves even harder than last year to bring a national championship back to UVA,” O’Malley says.
The Cavaliers have claimed three ACC titles in the last four years and reached the NCAA tournament in each of Myers’ 12 seasons—an unparalleled feat among contemporary Division I coaches.
She credits her staff—longtime assistants Heather Dow and Colleen Shearer—and the drawing power of the University for the success. “Virginia, I think, attracts great lacrosse players and the right kind of kids,” Myers says. “I’m obviously coaching at the right place.”