Varsity Castoffs, Clubbers Thrive for Virginia Tech
Katherine Berkel is one of eight former varsity players on Virgiia Tech's club team. The sixth-seeded Hokies meet 10th-seeded Florida in the WDIA National Championship semifinals Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz.
© Steve DeMeo
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's easy to like Virginia Tech's club women's lacrosse team.
The Hokies upset defending champion Colorado State, 12-11, in the second round Thursday of the WDIA National Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz. The tournament's No. 6 seed, they'll meet No. 10 Florida in a semifinal game Friday.
Perhaps more importantly, Virginia Tech is the platonic ideal of WDIA lacrosse -- players who do it for the love of the game, a student-run group that comes to decisions jointly.
The team has a Knights-of-the-Round-Table philosophy that's
visible on the field when you watch the Hokies' balanced attack and
upbeat pacing. That's what sophomore Katherine Tracey, a former
Virginia Tech varsity player, likes best about her new team.
"I'm having more fun. The atmosphere, the chemistry is better. They're just more happy about life," said Tracey, who led the Hokies with four goals in the win over Colorado State.
Tracey is one of eight players on the Virginia Tech club roster who previously competed for the Hokies' NCAA Division I team. Unhappy with the grind of Division I life, they decamped for club ball and found a better fit. The Hokies' club team has no coach, and all decisions -- everything from strategy to fundraising to substitutions -- are made communally. The players must rely on themselves and their teammates for motivation, rather than the top-down structure of a D-I program with a coach at the head.
With her hair twisted into messy Jen Adams-style knots on the back of her head and sweat dripping down her cheerful, freckled face, Tracey does not for a minute look like she regrets leaving behind the glamour of Division I for the relative obscurity of club ball. Knocking off a national champion feels a lot better than knocking around the bottom of the ACC. Playing your heart out in the sweltering heat of Scottsdale is more fun than spending May in Blacksburg watching lacrosse on TV.
Virginia Tech varsity finished 7-10, although the team did claim
a program-first ACC victory, defeating Boston College, 16-14 in
overtime on March 14.
"I love it," Tracey said of her club experience. "I feel like every day, everyone wants to be there."
Two of Virginia Tech's varsity defectors, senior midfielders Christina Griel and Casey Warner, started every game save one in 2008, and Tracey was the fourth-leading scorer on the team as a freshman. (The other five former varsity players are sophmore midfielder Kristin Campbell, senior midfielder Kristy Zeigler, sophomore midfielder Katherine Berkel, junior attacker Briana Warner and junior attacker MacKenzie Costello. All played sparingly for the Hokies' 2008 varsity team.)
Former varsity players were not guaranted a spot on the WDIA roster. Reportedly, a few former varsity players did not make the cut.
Sophomore Diane Revalski, a defender who did not play for Virginia Tech's varsity program, always intended to play club. But even so, the experience has surpassed her expectations.
"Club's literally changed my whole college career -- not just in terms of lacrosse, but the whole thing. I never would have traveled to as many places without it," said Revalski.
"We respect each other, and we can beat anyone when we keep our composure."
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