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UNC ends grieving Virginia's season

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Perhaps the physical and emotional exhaustion of grieving over slain teammate Yeardley Love finally caught up to the Virginia Cavaliers women's lacrosse team Saturday afternoon. Clouds covered the sky and occasional rain fell on Fetzer Field as UVa (14-5) battled UNC (17-2) in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The crowd of 676 who watched UNC defeat UVa 17-7 was much quieter than the thousands of emotional spectators who filled Klockner Stadium six days ago.

UVa, the sentimental favorite, couldn't break through the powerful defense of UNC goalie Logan Ripley, who allowed only two goals while saving five shots in the first half. The Cavaliers managed a few offensive spurts, mostly in the second half, but overall appeared sluggish, frustrated and deflated.

"The end of any season is always hard and this one is especially hard," UVa coach Julie Myers said. "Today wasn't one of our better efforts, but UNC is also a really great team. Even if we'd played our best, I'm not sure what the score would've been."

The two squads last met March 13, when the Cavaliers claimed a 13-12 overtime victory in Charlottesville, Va. The teams have split 24 games in a series that dates to 1996.

Even though the Cavs found the scoreboard three minutes into the game, UNC jumped to a 9-1 lead, and the Cavs were unable to bounce back from an 11-2 halftime deficit. The Tar Heels, who remained undefeated at home, held the statistical first-half advantages: UNC took 15 shots to UVa's eight and controlled 10 ground balls to the Cavaliers' five.

"We've been working hard all season, and today was just about having fun and playing lacrosse," said UNC sophomore Laura Zimmerman, who led the Tar Heels with four goals. When asked if the UVa players' emotions might have been a factor, Zimmerman responded, "We respect their team for being able to come out and play for her [Love]."

UVa senior Brittany Kalkstein, a finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy (given to the nation's top player), scored the first second-half goal for the Wahoos, extending her goal-scoring streak to 14 games, but the Heels answered with two quick goals, taking a 13-3 lead and handing UVa its first double-digit deficit this season.

"We were disappointed," UVa senior Caity Whiteley said. "Last week, we were overwhelmed, surprised and happy; today we were more frustrated and sad."

Several remembrances for Love carried over to Chapel Hill: bright orange wristbands worn by the UNC players, coaches and staff; a pregame moment of silence for Love; a box of white ribbons available for fans of both teams at the merchandising stand, with photos of Love as well as former UNC student president Eve Carson, who was shot and killed in 2008, and Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student killed earlier this year. UVa team members, dressed in orange jerseys, had "Love" written below the UVa 'V' and Myers had Love's name inscribed on her shirt.

"Every day we've been together has been more positive," Myers said.

The Cavaliers remained on the field long after the game. Some players sat, others cried and several stood and exchanged hugs. Myers and various team members spoke, talking about their "unconditional love" for one another and how they'd be there for each other long after parting ways as a team. Then they jogged from the bench toward their fans one last time, waving and blowing kisses at family members. Several players still lingered, not wanting to walk off the field and actualize the season's end.

"Staying together as a team, we've had Yeardley in our hearts," said senior Kaitlin Duff, the team's leading scorer. "She was so positive, so we are trying to be positive for her."

Though the Love family wasn't present, they sent messages to team members via texts and Facebook. "Mrs. Love told us, 1-2-3-4, Go Hoos," Duff said, referring to Love's now well-known gaffe of the team cheer, which Myers also remembered at Love's funeral. Myers said one of Love's uncle's, a former UVa lacrosse player from the 1950s, reminded the team that it is "everyone's team, the country's team right now."

UNC, which lost last year in the championship game, advanced to play defending champion Northwestern in the semifinals in Towson, Md., next weekend and will continue to remember Love. "Everything that's happened has really brought the lacrosse community together," Zimmerman said. "We are really able to lean on each other."

UNC coach Jenny Levy became emotional when asked about the conversation she shared with Myers before the game. The two were lacrosse teammates at UVa and have remained good friends. "Although I didn't know Yeardley, I wanted Julie to know how much I love her and support her," Levy said through her tears, her young daughter sitting in her lap. The support for the Cavaliers could be felt from fans on both sides as they stood and offered an ovation at the game's conclusion.

As the Cavaliers finally began their slow walk off the field, the clouds parted and the sun appeared, fleetingly, for the first time all day while cheers could be heard echoing from UNC's baseball stadium a half-mile away.

UVa will hold commencement ceremonies Sunday. The graduating class will wear white ribbons in Love's memory and UVa president John Casteen will address the students.

When Kalkstein, Duff and Whiteley were asked their post-graduation plans, none said they had confirmed jobs. Rather, they expressed a desire to take time at the beach, at home or abroad to reflect on all that's happened during their time at UVa, particularly during the last 19 days.

"We wish this never would've happened, but it's wonderful how supportive people everywhere have been," Duff said. "We're so thankful for that, for their love."

Anna K. Clemmons is a writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.