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Season ends for grieving Virginia lacrosse team

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The season ended for Virginia's women's lacrosse team. Who knows if the grief ever will?

One day before slain teammate Yeardley Love was supposed to graduate, the Cavaliers lost to North Carolina 17-7 on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Virginia (14-6) was playing its first road game since Love's death three weeks ago.

"I don't think that there's any way that you can really move on from" Love's death, senior midfielder Brittany Kalkstein said. "Obviously, it's going to be in our thoughts forever."

Virginia's players again wore T-shirts that said "One Team. One Heart. One Love." Their orange jerseys bore black patches on their chests with "LOVE" in white.

Some North Carolina students wore Carolina-blue T-shirts bearing Love's name and jersey No. 1. A moment of silence was held before the game to remember the popular senior whose death jolted the Virginia community. A player on the school's men's lacrosse team is charged with murder.

The best therapy, coach Julie Myers always said, was to keep playing. She felt lacrosse kept the team together and gave the players something to focus on besides their late teammate. Now, after their most lopsided loss of the year, they head into the uncertainty of the offseason.

"Every day that we've been together has been a positive day," Myers said. "I think it's taken a lot of energy for us to just go through the steps of a normal day, but I think our team has gotten stronger. I think we have gotten more connected. At the end of the game, one of our fifth-year seniors said, 'There's not a question in anyone's mind that we all love each other, and to know that is a pretty special and amazing feeling.'

"So I think we've established the unconditional love for one another, and we have gotten a little bit stronger," Myers said.

North Carolina (17-2) advanced to next week's semifinals in Towson, Md. — its second straight berth in lacrosse's final four. After the postgame hugs and handshakes, the Tar Heels stepped back and yielded center stage to the Cavaliers — politely applauding from their sideline while Virginia's players jogged across the field to acknowledge their fans.

"There were so many elements that, as a coach, you had to think about and prepare for with our team, and try to separate what's going on at Virginia and the game of lacrosse itself," North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said.

Kristen Taylor scored three goals in the decisive first half to lead the Tar Heels, who scored on 11 of their 15 shots in the opening 30 minutes, capped by Taylor's buzzer-beater in the final second to make it 11-2.

"I think it was hard for them to come down our throats," Myers said. "I think, emotionally, it was hard for them to play a hand in the ending of our season."

North Carolina gained a measure of revenge for a 13-12 overtime loss two months ago to Virginia. Of course, that was well before Love's death changed the Cavaliers' world forever.

With the support of her family, Virginia accepted a berth in the NCAA tournament and in the first round rallied to beat Towson 14-12.

"We've always had Yeardley in our hearts, and she wouldn't have wanted us to sit around and be sad," leading scorer Kaitlin Duff said.

Then came its first game outside Charlottesville — and this trip was anything but typical.

There were reminders of Love at almost every turn at Fetzer Field, with nearly everyone from the ticket-takers and security guards at the gates to the Tar Heels themselves wearing orange wristbands in tribute.

Before the game, Levy — a former Virginia player and teammate of Myers — acknowledged the challenge of being the other team in the Cavaliers' emotion-filled run. She said the best way to honor Love and show respect for Virginia was for both teams to play their best lacrosse.

And her team did, with Laura Zimmerman scoring four goals and Corey Donohoe adding three to help the Tar Heels pull away early. North Carolina never trailed, scored its first eight goals in a 17-minute span and added two more in the final 8 seconds of the half.

Virginia got three goals from Duff and two from Charlie Finnegan. The Cavaliers had made their deepest tournament run since reaching the 2007 national championship game, but a wrenching season was now over.

"We'd be crazy to think that it didn't have a toll, but I would also say, if we had won, we'd say, 'Look at where this emotion had gotten us,'" Myers said. "We just didn't play great again. ... Clearly, what we've been through, I wouldn't say has helped us, but I wouldn't blame it on that, either."