A Sad Farewell
Why Ask Y
COLLEGE PARK, Md.--It's two minutes after the Harvard women's lacrosse team's distressing overtime loss to Virginia in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
The two squads gather at the center of the field for an instant after shaking hands and then split, separated from each other by victory and defeat.
The Cavalier players jump up and down, safe with the knowledge that they will be in the finals for the second time ever. The last time Virginia played in a title game, it beat Maryland and brought Charlottesville its first NCAA crown.
The Crimson players, heads down and drenched in sweat and water, retreat to the bench. The sun glares down at them. It has been a long, hot day here at Byrd Stadium. Sixty-six minutes of grinding nails, teeth and sticks with not a cloud in the sky to protect the players from the tiring rays.
Junior defender Kelly Morrison wipes away the tears that have welled up in her eyes as they slide down her sunburnt skin. Junior Sarah Downing drags her stick along the grass. And there at the end of the bench, alone, eyes closed, in a crouch, is Co-Captain Liz Berkery.
Ivy League Player of the Year, Liz Berkery. All-American, Liz Berkery. Senior Liz Berkery.
She has thrown her Gatorade bottle down. She has tossed her stick indignantly under the bench. And she sits alone, trying to come to grips with the fact that she has played in her last game ever for the Crimson.
She finished Saturday's contest with one goal and two assists, hardly Berkerian numbers. But with four minutes left in regulation, she assisted on junior Emily Buxton that sparked the Crimson's comeback.
Late in the second half, Berkery began taking the draws (the faceoffs after each goal), and the Wellesley, Mass. native won the key ones to spark the Crimson's comeback.
But now, all of that is in the past.
"It's pretty disappointing to finish this way," Berkery would say after the game. "Harvard has a special program and it's hard to believe that I'm leaving."
Departing more silently is the other Co-Captain on the team. Senior Rachel Burke graduates with her classmate Berkery, and Saturday's game was her last as well.
The 1993 first team All-Ivy selection did not score against the Cavaliers--she does not tally much--but her swarming defense has boosted the Crimson all season and made the difference in the first half of the game against Virginia as she stripped Cavalier players left and right.
"Liz and Rachel were the greatest leaders and the best captains," sophomore Meg Colligan said. "We wanted to give them a national championship as a going away present. We're going to miss them."
In the last minute of overtime against Virginia, as the Cavaliers ate up the clock with a frustrating keep-away game, Burke and Berkery each made a last effort to take the ball away. First Burke rushed an opponent, screaming, stick flailing, but the Cavalier casually passed to her teammate. The, Berkery threw herself, lunging at the Virginia player in desperation. Again, the ball made it past and safely into the stick of a Cavalier.
Burke and Berkery watched as the clock ticked away, and Virginia ran away with the win.
It's time for everyone to come to grips with the fact that Burke and Berkery will never again don the crimson and black. Never again will Burke pester a player into submission and a turnover. Never again will Burkery tuck her stick under her arm in her favorite, undefendable move, sprint to the hole with opponents on each side and flip the ball into the net.
"I came in winning a national championship, and I wanted to go out winning one," Berkery said. "It's been a great ride."
A great ride. Yes, it's been a great ride.