Jan. 20, 2014
Senior, Attack, 5-4
In 18 days, the Vanderbilt lacrosse team begins the 2014 season on Feb. 7 at Kennesaw State. To get ready for the 19th season in program history, vucommodores.com will spotlight all 29 players and coaches Cathy Swezey, Susan Ellis and Julie Gardner. This segment will offer an inside look into the team on and off the field.
Today, Abby Wheeler, who wears jersey No. 18, continues our countdown. The senior captain hails from Charlottesville, Va., and is the team's top returning scorer. In 2013, she scored 28 goals and dished out four assists. She found the net on multiple occasions in nine games. In fact, she scored at least three goals in five games. She saved her best game for last with a career-high four goals in a loss to Penn State in the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament.
Wheeler has also excelled in the classroom as she has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all three seasons. She is pursuing a degree in human and organizational development and wants to work in urban design and city planning.
We sat down with Wheeler recently to talk about her senior season, her pet goats and Tim McGraw.
How excited and optimistic are you about your final season?
I'm excited because I feel like this is the most cohesive, high-performing team I have been on. I'm also excited because everyone is very clear about what they're goals are. We're all on the same page. We're pushing each other day in and day out, on the field and off the field.
Your role as a senior captain, you feel pretty comfortable in it? It is something you've grown into the last three and a half years?
I think it is interesting. Becoming a senior, it asks a lot more of you. All five (seniors) were ready to step up to the plate and excited about what we could do. We're just really confident in the strength of our team and leadership. I think it has made a big difference that we all wanted that role and were ready to make a difference. I think you'll see on Feb. 7 we're making a big difference.
How determined are you as a team to move forward from last year and turn the page and move on?
We try not to look back. We try to look forward. I think, because of that, it is behind us. We're focusing every day on getting an inch better. All of that work is really going to culminate once our games start. I think that the result will be really good.
So you have goats?
(Laughs) I do. I have goats (three, Goatee, Orville and Wilbur). They are more like house pets. They are just in our backyard. So I get fun of for being the farm girl because everyone is from Baltimore. Yep. Have goats and love them. ... They are great pets if anyone is interested.
Your family has a farm?
We do. The goats are actually just in the backyard. Our farm is two hours south (of Charlottesville, Va.). ... My mom's family had a farm that we grew up on. Recently we've started growing a lot more crops there and just gotten immersed. I love being from a rural area, the beauty. Nashville is really different. But that's been a really good experience for me too and I think I've loved it because it is so different. You get a little bit of everything here.
You met Tim McGraw and you said it embarrassed (fellow senior captain) Brandi Byner?
We were at an Ensworth High School basketball game. I was with Brandi's family watching her sister play basketball. Tim McGraw has kids who go there. I saw him across the way. Everyone is told not to bother him and let him feel like a normal parent. But I thought it would be my only opportunity. So Brandi's family begging me not to go was like, 'Well, I guess she is going to do it.' I have the autograph and I have no regrets. I always loved country music. Not Tim McGraw specifically but living here has been great because you have a lot of opportunities to see those kinds of people.
Age I picked up a lacrosse stick: Four years old
I picked my jersey number because: I chose 18 because it was my club coach Alivian Coates-Jorgensen's number at James Madison University. Alivian was the person who really encouraged me to look at Vanderbilt and who got me recruited to play here. She has always been a huge role model for me on and off the field.
A few words that describe the way I play lacrosse: Sneaky and shifty
What I need to improve on to be a better player: My ability to feed and come up with draws off of the offensive line
The thing that impresses me the most about Coach Swezey: Her poise and patience in tough situations and her pre-game speeches
Favorite part about playing at Vanderbilt: My teammates. On and off the field, I couldn't be surrounded by a better group of people.
Favorite sport other than lacrosse: Field hockey
Favorite musical performer: Ryan Bingham, ZZ Ward
Favorite movie: Secondhand Lions
Favorite midnight snack: A Qdoba breakfast burrito
Favorite thing about myself: My shoes and my acid wash overalls
Favorite athlete to watch in another sport: Fitz Lassing on the Vanderbilt football team
Talent I'd most like to have: The ability to match clothes
Favorite thing to do away from lacrosse: Tend to the goats
Favorite aspect of Nashville: Bikes for rent on every street corner prove to be very convenient
The most famous person I've met: Tim McGraw, much to (fellow senior captain) Brandi Byner's embarrasment
One thing my hometown is famous for: University of Virginia, Dave Matthews, Thomas Jefferson, being small
The person I'd love to trade places with for a day: Beyonce
The person I admire most: (Assistant coach) Sue Ellis
Career goal: To work in design and urban planning
The best advice I've received: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." - Henry David Thoreau