Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse: True Champions

So look, I’m sorry for the bait-and-switch. But the real reason I wanted to post this has less to do with the national champion Northwestern women’s lacrosse team and their raucous partying below (although that’s pretty awesome) than it has to do with the story of Jaclyn Murphy, a high school lacrosse player from New York and cancer survivor.

Northwestern women's lacrosse team

Murphy was 10 when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and soon thereafter came to the attention of Northwestern squad, who decided to adopt her as an honorary teammate. They were there every step of the way during her radiation and chemotherapy treatments and during her recovery, and now, at age 14, Murphy is cancer free. And she must be more than a bit of good luck, because since they met, the Wildcats have won five consecutive national titles.

Murphy and the Northwestern team were profiled on Bryant Gumbel’s “Real Sports” on HBO last week.

“They’ve meant the world to me,” Murphy said in her HBO interview with veteran journalist Frank Deford. “They’re like my second family.”

When Murphy was in the hospital for treatment, her roommate asked her who kept calling her. The calls were from members of the Northwestern team.

Jaclyn is from Hopewell Junction, N.Y., and was being treated at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York. On the wall in one of the halls was a photo of the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team, and each time Jaclyn and her parents passed it, they said, it gave them hope. Jaclyn had just started playing club lacrosse before she was diagnosed, and vowed that one day she would be back on the field.

When the Northwestern team heard about that through a friend of one of their coaches, they began sending her cards, text messages and autographs, and eventually they all met in person at one of the team’s games.

“It was a life-changing experience for me and a lot of other people on the team,” said Sarah Walsh, then a Northwestern senior, to THE NEW YORK TIMES. “She was talking about things we couldn’t even comprehend. It gave us a totally different perspective.”

Northwestern lacrosse team and Jaclyn Murphy

In turn, the team inspired Jaclyn’s father, Denis Murphy, to start the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a charity which matches other college sports teams with other child brain cancer patients. Nearly 100 children have been “adopted” by teams such as North Carolina, St. Bonaventure and Southern Mississippi. And 300 teams are on a waiting list to adopt kids.

Jaclyn and Denis Murphy said the bond the Northwestern team formed with Jaclyn helped save her life. She is now a healthy 14-year-old freshman at Arlington High School in LaGrangeville, N.Y., where she plays junior varsity lacrosse.

Dang it, now I’ve got something in my eye. Stupid summer allergies.

So anyway, here are the rest of the Northwestern party photos, as presented by UNCOACHED. Ladies, you deserve your celebration; you’re unbeatable in every possible way.