Six straight losses to conclude the 2021 season for the Michigan women’s lacrosse team left then-senior attacker Caitlin Muir feeling unfulfilled. At the end of the year, Muir was left with a choice: graduate or return for a fifth year.
She chose the latter.
“With not finishing out… on my own terms, it was really kind of a done deal,” Muir said. “I also feel like this team is so special so I wanted to end on my own terms but also get another chance to play (with this group).”
Michigan finished 3-9 last year with a deplorable end. This season, led by captain Muir, the team didn’t dwell on the previous year’s shortcomings. Seven straight wins to begin the season substantiates that.
Muir wasted no time this season, scoring multiple points in all but one game — yielding 26 goals and assists combined to lead the team. As impactful as she has been on the field though, her off-field contributions extend past the numbers.
The leadership and dedication of Muir has undoubtedly factored into the ongoing team success.
“Everyone looks at the stat sheet and sees goals and assists,” Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen said. “Well, there’s a lot more to playing lacrosse than that, and I think that Caitlin factors that in by causing turnovers in the ride and by just raising the overall level of the players around her.”
Strong leadership extends past personal performance, and Muir understands that. The team captain is off to an exceptional start this season on the field, but the true greatness she displays is in her captaincy.
A good player dedicates time to their own game, but a great one recognizes all the components off the field that play essential roles in generating success — something Muir has implemented into her own game.
“My approach in the beginning was mostly building relationships,” Muir said. “I feel like in order to lead, your team has to trust you.”
Muir will never be the loudest player, but her ‘lead by example’ approach supplemented by her priority to attain trust and communication is equally effective in her leadership pursuit.
As a freshman, Muir was considered shy and soft spoken, and her development over the course of the last five years is drastic. Now in her fifth year, her focus extends past her own play and towards building relationships with her teammates, setting a standard of effort and embedding trust.
“I think this year specifically she’s come back … with a goal to improve her leadership and be the person that people turn to and be the person that is directive,” Nielsen said.
So far, her endeavors have resulted in success. Not only has she bolstered strong connections, but she has seen her hard work translate in games.
For a team with lots of young talent, a mentor like Muir is incredibly impactful. Having someone with a relentless work ethic instills good habits and heightens the expectations of everyone.
“You don’t come back for your fifth year just because,” Nielsen said. “So she’s coming back for the love of the game, the love of this program and a love of this university.”
This additional year of eligibility is a silver lining of the COVID impacted years, and Muir is not taking that for granted. As she seeks to end her collegiate career on a high note, she has an opportunity to rewrite the narrative from last season.
The only question: Where will their story end?