Scholar Stories: duPhily Makes Mark On and Off Lacrosse Field

Feb. 8, 2017

Every Wednesday during the 2016-17 academic year, will highlight a different student-athlete and their academic path. These are our Scholar Stories.

This spring, Sophie duPhily will be among the first women's lacrosse players to graduate from the University of Michigan.

An original member of Team One who wears the No. 1 jersey, duPhily didn't have anyone to show her the ropes as a freshman. She didn't have upperclassmen to tell her where her classes were or how to run certain drills or how to manage the demands of being a student-athlete. Everything was new.

"When I read about Michigan starting a program, I thought, 'How's that going to work out?'" she said. "Coach U (Jennifer Ulehla) told us we had the chance to be a part of something special. For a department like this to start a program from scratch, it presented a different opportunity. We can walk in and be a leader, and we can play."

As is often the case with start-from-scratch programs, wins were hard to come by. Every competitor hates losing, sure, but in those early years, it wasn't about the team's record. It was about establishing a culture, an identity, an attitude.

Now in year four, duPhily says the team is tired of being looked at like the new kid on the block.

"We're not just showing we can compete as a D-I program. We've established that," she said. "We've had close calls with good teams, but we want to finish off these games now."

DuPhily is majoring in sport management and chose that in part because of its versatility. She came to Michigan knowing that she wanted to get involved in marketing and event management, two aspects on which the major touches.

This past summer, duPhily had the opportunity to intern with NBC Universal for the Rio Olympics. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, duPhily got a behind-the-scenes look at how an organization of that size runs the biggest sports event in the world, doing every behind-the-scenes task from clipping eight hours of badminton to producing highlight packages.

That experience, coupled with her on-campus studies, shifted her career focus less on sport and more on management and organization. She gets some of that from her father, Jerry, who runs Event Allies, an event-planning business in Wilmington, Delaware, that aims to promote the weaker, less developed parts of the city.

Seeing her father's work in the community has had a positive effect on Sophie, who is as involved and active as a student-athlete can be. In addition to regular visits to Mott Children's Hospital, duPhily is the team's rep and community engagement chair on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and is one of two student-athletes on the university's Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics (ABIA).

DuPhily was also instrumental in helping form the program's Game for Change, a partnership with the One Love Foundation to raise sexual assault prevention and awareness. It is in honor of Yeardley Love, a former lacrosse player at the University of Virginia who was murdered by her boyfriend in May 2010.

Three of duPhily's teammates -- Mae Tarr, Gabby Burns and Caroline Bilger -- graduated from Love's high school, Notre Dame Prep in Maryland. For them, the cause hits home.

DuPhily and teammates went on central campus and had students sign a banner "pledging to be one for change". Representatives from the university's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) came to their game and handed out pamphlets.

"We wanted to have a game and a cause of our own to promote," duPhily said. "There was never a joint effort that had both men's and women's teams come together. College is a perfect place to promote it. It's such a big issue."

Near the end of her journey, duPhily and her classmates have thought about what their legacy will be. The new lacrosse stadium, under construction on South State Street and scheduled to open next year, serves as a symbol of the program's growth and a reminder that progress is built brick by brick, day by day.

"We have one more season to leave our mark," she said. "How do we want to go out?"

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