Phoenix residents flavor first Michigan women's lacrosse team

Despite shivering during a recent photo shoot on a chilly afternoon, Phoenix residents Allison Silber and Amanda Sutor insist that braving the elements was not much of a factor when choosing a Division I college lacrosse program.

Silber was primarily interested in colder-climate schools anyway, such as Hofstra University, on Long Island, and the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind.

Not so much for Sutor, who considered the universities of Florida and Southern California before she and Silber made independent decisions to sign letters of intent to play on the first University of Michigan women's team in what was previously considered a lacrosse backwater.

Other Baltimore-area products taking a chance on joining the newly minted team include Sara Beach (Towson High), Emma Guarino (Roland Park Country School) and Madeline Dion (Annapolis High).

Weather conditions didn't ultimately factor in when the chance to play in Michigan's inaugural season in the spring of 2014 was offered to Sutor and Silber in the fall of their junior years by Wolverine coach and Maryvale Preparatory School grad Jen Ulehla.

"My grandfather had talked about Michigan," said Silber, a goalie on McDonogh School's four-time defending Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship team. "And I thought, 'Oh, they have lacrosse now,' so I went up to Ann Arbor while I was also on a recriting visit to the other schools. The difference between Michigan and the other schools was huge. I was like, 'OK, this is it.'"

Silber, a part-tme starter last year, will have a chance to become a full-time performer as the Eagles look to continue their 69-game winning streak when they open the season on March 13 at Forida powerhouse Vero Beach, which had a similar streak snapped by McDonogh last year.

"Allison had a great game against Vero Beach last year," said McDonogh coach Chris Robinson. "She's a streaky goalie, and when she's hot, she's very good."

Robinson said that Michigan was the proper choice for her.

"It's a good fit, socially and academically," he said. "She's a dynamic kid, who will be very successful in life, and Michigan's a great school."

Sutor, an attacker at St. Paul's School for Girls, was drawn to the business school at Michigan.

"We were looking at a lot of good schools," said Amanda's dad, David. "Look, she's not going to play professionally, so we wanted the school with the best mix of academics and athletics. We also wanted somewhere where she'd have a good opportunity to play. I think we found the right school."

Sutor liked the school almost as much as her parents wanted her to become a Wolverine.

"I liked the school a lot," Sutor said with a laugh. "But my parents really liked it."

St. Paul's coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland said that she gave Sutor "a vote of confidence, but she got in there on her own."

"I think the fact that she's a lefty helped, and her lacrosse IQ is off the charts," she added. "Her stick skills have gtreatly improved, too."

Both girls said that being on the ground floor of a fledgling program was particularly appealing.

"I like the idea of starting a team," Sutor said.

Neither were aware of Ulehla's local ties, although Silber knew what the former University of Maryland standout had done at Florida.

"She helped start the program there," Silber said. "So I figure she knows what she's doing."

Ulehla was an assistant with the Gators from 2008 until after their inaugural season in 2010. That team, with 16 of its 29 players — including Hereford's Emily Dohony — from Baltimore-area schools, went 10-8.

Florida advanced to a national semifinal in just its third season last spring, producing a 19-3 record with many of the players recruited by Ulehla.

David Sutor, though, remembered Ulehla as a player with the Terps, having been a fan of the the school a he attended a decade earlier.

Knowing her background was another plus in the recruiting process, he said.

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