March 9, 2001

McGoey and Miles: The Old Guard

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Ginny and Goey. Goey and Ginny.

Anyway you look at it, there stands the heart of the most dynamic women’s lacrosse team in the nation.

Junior Virginia “Ginny” Miles, and senior Sarah “Goey” McGoey, have a passion for the game that has driven the Red to unprecedented heights in the lacrosse world. Last season, the team swept to easy victories in the ECAC tournament, breaking records for most goals in a season, and more importantly, most wins in a season. Having improved every year since head coach Jenny Graap ’86 returned to her alma mater in 1998, the team is well on its way to becoming a national powerhouse.

And all great teams need great leaders: men’s lacrosse had Sean Steinwald ’00, varsity football had Ricky Rahne and Joe Splendorio, the Redskins had Art Monk Leaders to inspire greatness among their peers and rally their troops in times of trouble.

Driving Force

McGoey and Miles provide that driving force for ladies lacrosse.

“Part of our success is having that dual leadership so strong on the team. As a coach I look to Sarah and Ginny to set a great example, and to communicate what’s going on with the team — to share their wisdom and insight into player development issues and team dynamics,” Graap said. “This is crucial to our success. I see them as my equals.

“It’s very much a relationship in which I want them to feel comfortable talking to me. I speak to them with respect,” she continued. “Captains serve an important role in helping me to see things from the players’ eyes.”

In those eyes, Graap must see an intense excitement in the direction this program is taking.

“We’re looking to improve on everything that Cornell lacrosse has done,” Miles confidently stated. “Cornell lacrosse has never made it to the NCAA tourney, so I kind of feel like we’re making history here.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to and excited about.”

And that kind of mentality makes Miles and McGoey unique: they have the willingness to run the extra mile or lift the extra weight to achieve a common goal.

“Ginny works as hard or harder than anyone in practice,” Graap prided. “That’s very important as a leader — to be able to run hard on every sprint, to go through that tough conditioning and be in the front of the pack. She could probably take it a little easier and still be in the starting lineup but she doesn’t do that. It’s leadership by example.

“It’s one thing to speak the right words, but both Sarah and Ginny walk the walk,” she continued. “They really do set a good example.”

“You have to be dedicated,” McGoey said. “Especially in Ithaca, you have to be able to work your butt off in 30-degree weather. Dedication and being able to work as a team are most important, since it is a team sport.”

Starting Young

“Dedicated” is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Ginny. Ever since Miles held a lacrosse stick, she has been working on improving her skills to a level much beyond that of her peers. Going into high school, her goal was to start for the varsity team as a freshman.

“I practiced on my own every night, to develop my skills and become a better player and better attacker,” Ginny reminisced. “Doing that has helped me a tremendous amount. Getting right into it and playing with the higher caliber players from the get-go made a big difference in my lacrosse career.”

Coming out of high school, Ginny was a blue-chip prospect and recruited heavily around the nation.

“I got to know her very well during the recruiting process,” Graap explained. “She was a big recruit and Cornell was an exciting option in that we needed to her to help us build our program. To be able to recruit her here was fabulous for us.”

Fabulous is perhaps an understatement. Miles has led the Red in goals each of her first two seasons. Time and again she has broken free from tight marking to score multiple goals. Against Boston College alone, Miles recorded five goals, and against Pennsylvania, she picked up five points.

Single-Handed Force

Her stellar play has given her the reputation of a dynamic player who can single-handedly take over a game. Ginny, however, has other ideas of this assessment:

“I have traditionally been labeled as the scorer, but for the ability to take over a game, I don’t agree,” she said. “It’s impossible for one player to take over a game. It takes an entire attacking unit to change the speed of the game and turn things around.”

This very thought process highlights another key attribute of Ginny: that of selflessness.

“She’s a great player, she wants to get better, she has gotten better, and she doesn’t have an ego about it,” Graap said. “Being the leading goal scorer both freshman and sophomore years never went to her head and never affected her ego. Players respect that about her.”

“I am the guiding force in getting everyone on the same page,” Miles said. “Off of the field, I try to provide that link between the coach and players, as well as motivating the players.”

Still Young

But, being a junior, Miles still has opportunities to improve her game. Under the tutelage of McGoey, Miles will soon blossom into an unstoppable force.

“Ginny is learning from Sarah, like she’s almost an apprentice captain,” Graap said. “Sarah is the only senior and two-time captain, so she is a clear captain. Ginny is younger and part of very talented junior class. There is a difference in the maturity level. Sarah had a year to learn that from her mentor, and now Sarah is the mentor for Ginny. They’re not on par in a lot of ways, and that’s okay. They make a great match.”

Graap clearly holds a great deal of admiration for McGoey, a player she recruited when she coached at George Mason.

“I had talked to her over the phone and I remember McGoey as a recruit because I liked her so much: I loved her attitude and her maturity. I loved this kid. But it didn’t work out at the time and I remember being sad about that.

“When I came to Cornell, I saw her name on the roster, and I thought, ‘what fate this is.’ Of all the players I recruited, here was the one woman who made an impression on me. It made me feel like I made the right decision.”

McGoey holds a special bond with Graap because she is the only player that Graap has coached for all four years.

“Over the years she has improved her skills, improved her speed, and earned my respect. She’s now trying out for the Canadian World Cup Team. Sarah is a shining example of a lot of things,” Graap exulted.

Sarah’s rising career also started before high school, when a baby-sitter who had played for the Canadian World Cup team gave her first stick and practiced with her. McGoey eventually became one of the best players in Canada, joining the winning junior Canadian World Cup team.

She now starts for one the stingiest defenses in the nation.

“On the field, I’m definitely a loud, vocal player, keeping your head into the game, keep everyone focused,” McGoey explained. “Off the field, I make sure the team is happy, and that everyone knows what’s going on. I make sure that there is communication between players and coaches, and that there is a good balance between all of us, making sure we stay together.”

“McGoey worked hard to earn her position on the team. because she has that background of leadership and experience,” Graap said. “She knows how to deal with the young players on our team, who aren’t seeing a lot of playing time.”

ability to connect with the other players has helped to weave a tight-knit squad which won last year’s ECAC, which dominated squads around Europe, and which listens to the Top Gun theme before every game.

“On and off the field, the bus rides, the victory celebrations . . . everybody hangs out together and has a lot of fun together,” McGoey said.

“We’ve got amazing camaraderie,” Miles agreed.

Similar Goals

Both women share team goals for the season, to beat teams that they almost beat last season (Vanderbilt, Princeton, Darmouth), as well as to participate in the NCAA Tournament. According to history, every team that won the ECAC title the previous year, has played for the NCAAs the next.

“We’re really excited,” McGoey smiled. “In a way we’ve got so much to lose and so much to gain. We’re kind of on that mountain, climbing up . . . . You can either keep going up or fall down.”

With Goey and Ginny at the helm, there’s no telling how high this women’s lacrosse team will end up.

“Every good team beats with one heart,” their locker room states. Goey and Ginny ensure that this will always be the case.

Archived article by Sumeet Sarin