Virginia midfielder Sammy Mueller (left) had hoped to finish out her UVa career with a trip to the Final Four.

Sammy Mueller expected her final season of collegiate lacrosse to come at Virginia. COVID-19 prematurely ended her final year in Charlottesville, but with the NCAA granting spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, Mueller’s career lives to see another season.

Only her final season won’t come in Charlottesville.

Mueller is headed to Northwestern to pursue a master’s degree in project management with a specialization in real estate development while also finishing her collegiate athletic career. Northwestern isn’t new for Mueller, whose older sister Ally played at the school. Ally Mueller finished her time at Northwestern in 2018, earning All-Big Ten honors as a senior.

Now it’s Sammy’s turn to star for the proud program, which has won seven national championships since 2000.

“It’s bittersweet,” Mueller said. “I loved my time at UVa, and it was awesome playing here, but unfortunately, there wasn’t a master’s option here that would allow me to further enhance my undergraduate business degree.”

Northwestern offers a solid project management program with a real estate focus, and that’s Mueller’s career focus.

Add in the storied lacrosse tradition and Northwestern is an ideal fit.

UVa head coach Julie Myers would have welcomed Mueller back with open arms, but she understands Mueller’s desire to play lacrosse and pursue a master’s degree in her field.

“Sammy was one of our all-time greats,” Myers said. “I think if we had a chance to finish out the season, certainly she would have broken some records and been in the top three to five in a lot of different categories, so a player that I would take back every time I get a chance.”

Myers believes Mueller’s best lacrosse is still ahead of her, which is a scary thought for Big Ten teams next season. Mueller earned All-American honors three times during her UVa career, and she’s one of the better players to take the field at UVa.

Through three full seasons and the shortened 2020 season, Mueller finished with 165 goals and 50 assists. The midfielder did it all for the Cavaliers.

“I’m happy she gets to play again,” Myers said. “I just wish it was here.”

With Mueller at Northwestern, Myers will keep tabs from afar and root for the former UVa star as she wraps up her collegiate career in the Big Ten.

In addition to her elite talent as a goal scorer and passer, Mueller served as a leader for the Cavaliers. Her ability on the field was special, but her steady presence in the locker room helped the team.

“As incredible as she is on the field, that pales in comparison to how wonderful a teammate she is,” Charlie Campbell, UVa’s goalkeeper and Mueller’s first-year roommate, said. “Every accolade that’s been heaped on her has been well deserved, but she could have gotten 10 more for how wonderful of a leader and friend that she is.”

One of Mueller’s best traits was her reliability. The unflappable standout never wavered regardless of the situation or mounting pressure. If the Cavaliers needed a goal or a big play in an intense moment, they felt confident turning to Mueller.

“Sammy was not fazed by anything that was thrown at her, and you always felt like when she was there, everything was going to be OK,” Campbell said.

Mueller starred in Charlottesville and while her collegiate career won’t end in a UVa uniform, she’ll go down as one of the best players and teammates in program history.

The ending to her collegiate career wasn’t what she originally planned, but the opportunity to go out on her own terms at Northwestern ensures one more women’s lacrosse season with Sammy Mueller on the field.

“I think just the way the season ended, there’s no closure, and so I think just being able to get to play one more year is just something that I’ll cherish,” Mueller said. “It’s really an incredible opportunity.”

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