Finnigan brings England to Virginia
Adjusting to more disciplined style of play
Charlie Finnigan may not be the first international player in the history of the University of Virginia women’s lacrosse program, but the native of Twickenham, Middlesex, England, has proved to be a perfect fit in the Cavaliers’ locker room.
Except for one thing.
“Everyone here thinks the American Office is like the original,” Finnigan said, “and I’m like, ‘Guys, you haven’t seen the English one. It’s so much better.’ It’s so annoying…but I’m scared to show it to them, because I’m not sure they’ll understand the humor of it. It’s a very different humor.”
Still, while Finnigan and her teammates might disagree as to whether Ricky Gervais’ David Brent or Steve Carell’s Michael Scott makes the better boss, there’s no arguments about the way that Finnigan has taken charge on the field of late. The junior attacker figured on 12 of the Cavaliers’ 44 goals last week in their wins over Richmond and then-No. 8 Syracuse, including a career-best eight points on five goals and three assists in the 21-11 win over the Orange.
“I think the whole team just really set a tone of executing things and doing little things well that she was really able to focus on her game,” said Virginia coach Julie Myers, whose team rose to fifth in the latest IWLCA Division I Coaches Poll. “She played really clean with her decisions, and her execution, but when her teammates are on, too, it really generated the opportunity for her to go to goal so many times, and then for her to assist. I think if you’re assisting three in one game, it means your team is working pretty well.”
For Finnigan, now in her second year at UVa after transferring from the University of Loughborough, her outstanding performance so far this season comes from having had a full year to adjust to the American game. Scoring more than a quarter of her goal total from last season in just three games this year shows how comfortable Finnigan is playing a more disciplined style than she was used to in England.
“Coming from England, it’s such a different setup,” Finnigan said, “so it probably took me that whole first year to get settled in and used to how they play over here. It’s nice coming back, because I know exactly what to expect. I know what the coaches want and what they don’t want, how we’re going to run the attack, and what the cards mean when they hold them up.
“We don’t have any of that in England; it’s much more down to ourselves. The coaches will make the plays, but then as players on the field, you have the control to call them. Here, [the coaches] call them, so I’ve learned to be a bit more disciplined. I know what’s going on a little bit more.”
While Finnigan needed time to adjust to the more disciplined style the Cavaliers play, it was always obvious that she had the talent to succeed, which was why Myers was so pleasantly surprised when the England National Team star landed on her doorstep after watching her play at the Under-19 World Championship in Toronto in 2007.
“Colleen [Shearer] and I had gone up to Canada to watch the U.S. team play,” Myers said. “In the process, we had the chance to get a feel for the U-19s and talk to some coaches that were up there, and get a sense of who was doing well from other countries. Charlie’s name definitely came up, but the chances of us actually meeting Charlie Finnigan are such a leap. We weren’t going to England, the recruiting cycle was pretty far in. We were like, ‘Oh, it’s too bad. I think we’re going to miss it.’ Then, a couple of weeks later, we got an e-mail from Charlie saying that she was going to be coming through Charlottesville.”
After the U-19 World Cup, Finnigan and her England teammate Kate Newall went backpacking through the U.S. looking at schools where they could play NCAA lacrosse. While Newall wound up choosing Notre Dame, Finnigan found that the atmosphere in Charlottesville was perfect for what she wanted.
“We spent a few more days here than we did anywhere else,” Finnigan said. “We were with a friend, an English girl that went here. She showed us around. We met the coaches, and when I arrived, the coaches were the most friendly coaches we’d met. A lot of the places, we turned up and didn’t really have a plan, but as soon as we turned up here, the coaches were like, ‘Oh, come in, come sit down, tell us your story. Have a glass of water. How can we help?’ That made a big difference, because it was so nice when we got here.”
The picturesque campus certainly didn’t hurt, either, and made for a nice change after Finnigan spent her freshman year in England preparing for the World Cup.
“It’s such a difference from where I was in England,” Finnigan said. “It’s so beautiful, the whole campus.”
The Cavaliers’ play last week after a season-opening loss to Loyola has certainly been beautiful, but they’ll get a much more serious test on Friday, when Virginia hosts reigning NCAA Champion Maryland in the Cavaliers’ home opener.
However, with Finnigan and her teammates coming off a pair of dynamic performances, the Terrapins can expect world-class opposition on Friday night.