How Julie Talbert Kept Her Salisbury Teammates Together in Times of Isolation

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES


Julie Talbert had two goals and two caused turnovers in Salisbury’s 14-13 victory over Tufts in the NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse championship game May 23 in Salem, Va. But Talbert’s contributions went so much deeper than the stat sheet.

“This is why we won this game — because of Julie Talbert. Without a doubt, with all my heart,” coach Jim Nestor said after the game. “Knowing that Julie’s been coaching at practice, coaching in the locker room, coaching on the field. This is why we got this victory.”

Strong words, but none truer following a season that was like no other in Nestor’s 28 years as a head coach — one played under the constant threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Players were tested weekly, never knowing if they might be sidelined due to exposure or contract tracing.

“There was a lot of mental stress for everyone,” Nestor said. “There were a lot of things we were not allowed to do as a team, even being limited in how many people could come together in a room at one time. We needed a lot of perseverance.”

Talbert took it upon herself to keep the team connected. The senior attacker and NCAA championship MVP listened as teammates confided in her about the challenges they faced on and off the field. She made sure no one got left on an island.

“Julie did a great job of following-up with players and staying in touch with everybody,” Nestor said. “That’s her personality.”

Talbert understood the need for many of her teammates to talk through the anxieties they were encountering. 

“It was definitely a different year because there was that underlying stress and anxiety,” Talbert said. “We’re lacrosse players, but we’re also in school. Zoom classes are not easy. College is stressful. So focusing on our mental health was something huge this year.”







Sitting beside Nestor when he made his postgame comments about her brought tears to Talbert, but she has been quick to deflect credit for the squad’s wellbeing to all of her teammates.

“We all played a part in checking up on each other,” she said. “It was all the upperclassmen having the backs of the younger players. The bonds we created on this team were special.”

Sometimes, the conversations indicated that a player might need off from practice for a mental health day. Other times, they resulted in connecting a teammate with an on-campus counselor.

“We did check-ins every week or two. ‘Who needs me? Is everybody good? If you need to take a break, take a break. If you need to see somebody, let me know,’” Talbert said. “We really wanted to focus on making sure everyone was healthy mentally and physically.”

The connections didn’t stop in the locker room or on the field. Talbert was the player who always pulled the offense together, or shared words of encouragement during water breaks at practice. 

“You don’t have to have a ‘C’ next to your name to be a leader,” said Nestor, who joined National Lacrosse Hall of Famers Sharon Pfluger (TCNJ) and Missy Foote (Middlebury) as the only coaches to win four NCAA Division III titles.

As a product of nearby Eden, Md. with two older sisters — Katelin and Alissa — who also played at Salisbury, Talbert’s leadership role came naturally. She’d been around Nestor and the Sea Gull program long before she ever stepped foot on campus as a freshman.

“Growing up around Salisbury, I went to all of coach’s clinics, and I was probably annoying because I was there all the time,” Talbert said. “Being part of this program has shaped all three of us to be the people that we are.” 

Oldest sister Katelin was a member of Salisbury’s 2013 and 2014 NCAA championship teams. Alissa was a senior in Julie’s freshman season of 2018, when the Gulls lost in the NCAA semifinals on the same field in Salem where they celebrated this year's title.

“Watching Alissa and Katelin, and seeing their heartbreak at times, has motivated me for four years,” Julie Talbert said. “This ring isn’t just mine, but it’s also Alissa’s. Changing memories from the past to this memory is pretty cool.”

This article appears in the Championship Edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

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