When Maya De Jonge first arrived at UChicago, her mom left her with two pieces of advice: “One, explore—explore people, classes, and experiences as much as you can. Two, trust yourself—trust yourself to have that hard conversation, to make that tough decision, or to stray from the norm.”
As a first-year, she was excited about the new opportunities and challenges to come, but at that time she did not know that one of those new experiences would be to help found and lead the University of Chicago’s women’s varsity lacrosse team in their first two seasons.
Throughout her time here, De Jonge proved to be an integral part of the team. Her positivity and kindness will always be remembered. But most importantly, her leadership of a new program has cemented her legacy, and the team will continue to build on the example she has set. It is one of the things that comes to the mind of head coach Kate Robinson. “Maya has brought so many things to our program, but what I will miss most was her leadership of our young team. Even before we officially started at the varsity level, she hosted many of our current sophomore class when they were being recruited. Since then, she has been a captain and has been a great representative of the team. Her leadership was a big reason why we saw success in the past 2 years.”
During her career, the Maroons won a total of 18 out of their 21 games. Her leadership not only led to success on the field but also off the field in supporting her fellow teammates with issues related to school or lacrosse. According to teammate second-year Jordan Coan, “She is one of the best examples of a student-athlete at this school. Whether it was walking from the locker room, helping me pace for the mile, or hosting pasta parties before games, she has never failed to be there for me on and off the field.”
Looking back on her time at UChicago, De Jonge is proud of what she has been able to accomplish both as a student and athlete, always keeping in mind what her mom told her four years ago. In her own words, “This school was such a unique opportunity for me, both academically and athletically, and I think as I continue to reflect on my career here, I will just remember and be grateful for all the wonderfully challenging experiences I had and the relationships I was able to build with my friends, teammates, coaches, and professors.”
Although her final season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact that she has had on the program is immense and her legacy will continue on after she graduates and pursues a career in medicine. Those that have had the honor to have been able to play alongside or coach her, sum up their emotions in one word: grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to work with such a caring and inspiring person. Coan wished to say: “Thank you for always being there for me whether that is for advice, encouragement or a hug. Thank you for being the first person I call when something is wrong and my first role model at UChicago.” Robinson expressed a similar sentiment. “She is going to make the world a better place and I feel lucky that she was part of our lacrosse program.”