As Mie Graham starts a job on the Citibank trading desk this summer, she feels uniquely qualified to climb the corporate ladder after enduring a variety of ups and downs during her career with the Duke University women’s lacrosse team.
“I learned so much about sacrifice, respecting other people, and working as a leader,” said former Princeton High star Graham, who graduated from Duke last month.
“It is a huge advantage over other people who didn’t play a sport. Being part of something bigger than yourself and caring so much and putting so much work into it.”
Graham faced some big challenges during her college lacrosse career as she made the transition from high-scoring PHS midfielder to a defensive stalwart for the Blue Devils.
“When I first started in college, I had a lot of work to do,” recalled Graham. “I was a midfielder but the coach [Kerstin Kimel] told me I was going to play more defense. The coach told me it was going to take a couple of years to earn a spot and that it was going to be a process. It takes time to learn how to do it and to learn to play as a unit. During sophomore year, I was getting some minutes during games and I was trying to push people in practice.”
By her junior year, Graham had made it into the starting lineup and this spring she served as a team captain, helping the Blue Devils go 14-6 and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
For Graham, being elected as a captain was the culmination of her growth process.
“I was so honored and so proud,” said Graham, who served along with classmates Kaitlin Gaiss and Lauren Martin together with junior Taylor Virden. “I had to work my way up, I didn’t come in as a superstar. I wasn’t on that trajectory and I ended up as a captain; things worked out perfectly for me.”
Things didn’t come any easier, though, for Graham upon assuming the leadership role.
“It is a much harder job than I thought,” said Graham. “It was such a huge responsibility, I learned so much and became so close to the other captains. I learned how much it takes to get through a season. You have to put the team ahead of yourself. I really enjoyed it.”
The defensive unit emerged as a strength of the 2013 Duke team as the Blue Devils allowed 8.95 goals a game this spring, third in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and 24th nationally.
“Lauren [Martin], Taylor [Virden], and I had played together for two years,” said Graham, who scooped up 18 ground balls and had 13 caused turnovers this spring.
“We had the experience and we got to the point where we felt telepathic in the crease. We had the mentality of putting everything into every practice and every game.”
It was a tough loss in a regular season game with North Carolina that showed Graham and her teammates how good they could be.
“We took UNC to two overtimes and lost by one,” said Graham, referring to the 12-11 loss in late March to the eventual national champion.
“It was such a great battle, we showed that we could play with them. It gave us good experience.”
Coming into the postseason, the Blue Devils were ready to battle hard. “Every year the goal is to win the NCAA tournament,” asserted Graham.
“We had a disappointing loss to UVa in the ACC tournament and we had a lot of time before the NCAAs. We were excited about our path, playing Princeton and Navy and then probably going against
The first-round clash against Princeton in Annapolis, Md. proved to be a very exciting game as Duke prevailed 10-9 in double overtime.
“It is always special when I play in Princeton; it was a little different playing at Navy,” said Graham.
“I wasn’t focused on that; the mentality was it didn’t matter who we were playing. What is so great about this team is that we may not have been the most talented team or had the advantages of other teams but we always believed. We had no doubt that we would win that game, even though Princeton scored late and we had wanted to win in regulation.”
The Blue Devils didn’t need overtime to win 10-5 against Navy in the second round, holding the Midshipmen scoreless for over 40 minutes during one stretch of the contest.
“We had never played Navy; I didn’t know anyone on that team,” said the 5’8 Graham, who contributed a pair of caused turnovers to help Duke stifle Navy.
“We had one day to get our legs back and scout them. We couldn’t have a hard practice. We watched a lot of film. We knew they would be hard-nosed and determined and they were not going to be intimidated about playing Duke. They had Jasmine DePompeo; she was the leading scorer in D-I and we held her scoreless, that was awesome. We played well, we were really in synch. We were riding the momentum off of Friday.”
The ride for Graham ended as Duke fell 14-9 to eventual national runner-up Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals.
“In the first game against them, we pushed out,” explained Graham, referring to the regular season meeting between ACC rivals in late February which saw the Terps prevail 15-6.
“In the second game, we packed it in more. They have a turf field and it is narrow and that gives them an advantage. They are so fast and athletic. We felt that if we put it together at both ends, we had a good chance to beat them. We had problems clearing; we made too many turnovers. We scored the last four goals. It made me feel better that we played hard to the end.”
It was hard for Graham to say goodbye to her college lacrosse career under such circumstances.
“Being a leader and a captain, I tried to not show too much emotion,” said Graham.
“I was trying to be strong but it was a hard ride home. I couldn’t be more proud of the team because we fought so hard. When I think about all the work we put in, starting last fall, I was proud. I am excited to see the team next year. I think we have laid a good foundation.”
And when Graham thinks about her Duke career, she can be confident of gaining a strong foundation for whatever lies ahead.