Final Four-Bound Colorado Remembers Teammate
Colorado's Amy Long carries up field Thursday during the Buffs' victory over Cal Poly. Long and other players wear sweatband on their legs that read "Hedge 24," in honor of teammate Chelsea Hedge, who died in December.
© Steve DeMeo
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Colorado is the best-accessorized team at the WDIA National Championship.
Players bought stretchy gold fabric to wear as flyaway-preventing headbands, after the school made a budget-minded decision to buy black-and-white uniforms that don't have CU's traditional black and gold. A hint of gold, after all, was necessary for a team vying for a national title.
They worried officials might say the fabric was too reflective
and distracting, but no one seems to mind. So the Buffaloes will
wear gold when they take the field tonight in a national semifinal
against No. 1 seed UCSB.
The headbands are simultaneously glam and intimidating, like the Buffs have already been crowned champions. But Colorado's drive to win doesn't come from gold. It comes from black.
In addition to their ersatz crowns, the Buffs wear a simple black sweatband with a name and a number: Hedge 24. It's for Chelsea Hedge, a senior who died in December, a few weeks before Christmas and a few months before the season began. Colorado coaches declined to confirm how Hedge died, but an obituary by the Contra Costa Times cited "a long battle with depression and BPD (bipolar disorder)."
Colorado carries Hedge's memory onto the field every time it plays.
"It takes our minds off of any individual fear, and we play as a
team," says senior Amy Long.
Hedge hailed from California, providing an additional reminder for the Buffs when they face teams from the Golden State. She had a handful of friends on the Cal Poly team, which Colorado defeated in the second round, 13-10, to make tonight's semifinal against UCSB. It was the second time this season that the Buffs bested the Mustangs. The first time was a 10-8 win at the Santa Barbara Shootout, which Hedge's parents came to watch.
Colorado beat Cal Poly on Thursday thanks to a spread offense and slow-down defense that wore the Mustangs out, but players swear they owe the victory to something else.
"We have a 13th girl on the field," says assistant coach Jessica
Tomlinson and head coach Kaitlin Moore are recent CU grads and alums of its club lacrosse program. The team is a labor of love for them, and dealing with the death of a player was an unexpected twist on their coaching responsibilities. They've had to cram practices and planning sessions into their busy post-grad lives, a journey that has been exhausting and exhilarating.
"It's been a learning experience. We would only do this for these girls," says Moore.
When the Buffs take the field against UCSB, another California team, they'll do it to win the title, but also for Hedge.
They do it for the gold, and for the black.
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