"Maybe sports teams your first year isn't a good idea for you," Wooten, 19, recalled her parents saying. "There's a party culture with sports teams here."
Like other students interviewed Thursday on the Charlottesville campus, Wooten had spent some time thinking about the second-degree murder conviction of George Huguely V the previous night in the death of his onetime girlfriend, Yeardley Love, a Cockeysville native and fellow varsity lacrosse player.
Some of the students said they largely support the verdict, even as they felt sympathetic toward Huguely, 24, who faces a prison term longer than his age should the judge uphold the 26-year sentence recommended by the jury. The trial, which highlighted what some describe as a culture of excessive drinking and the sometimes hidden world of dating violence, was viewed as a sobering reminder of the perils of what to outsiders seems like the carefree lifestyle of college students.
"I think people in college get swept up in the whole college atmosphere," Wooten said, "I talked to one friend, she actually ended up in the emergency room after a night of drinking. She kept falling and hitting her head and got a concussion."
Walking down one of the brick pathways that wind through the university grounds with Becca Jarosinski, 19, the two friends said that in the wake of Love's death, U.Va. has stressed subjects such as alcohol awareness. Jarosinski, of Powhatan, Va., recalled taking a required, 30-minute online course that offered information and quizzes to test knowledge of the effects of alcohol.
"I found it helpful," Jarosinski said. "It discussed how little it can take to get drunk. There were things that I didn't know in it."
Aaron Shroyer, 19, of Norfolk was among the students who occasionally went to the courthouse to watch a bit of the trial. He is second-generation U.Va. — both of his parents went there — and he and his sister followed, so the case hit close to home.
"It's tragic that she lost her life, and it's tragic he'll be behind bars for much of his life," Shroyer said as he and his friend Eugene Chang, 19, walked back after their last class of the day to their apartments near where Huguely and Love lived. Admitting he felt conflicted, Shroyer thought Huguely would be convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter but, in any event, he felt justice had been served by the verdict and suggested sentence.
Shroyer counts several lacrosse players among his friends, and Chang rooms with one, and they agreed that the image out of the trial of the careless, hard-partying jock culture struck them as oversensationalized.
"That does not speak to their character," Shroyer said. "I take class with them, and they're obviously very talented. George Huguely is definitely not the norm."