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Field hockey assistant succumbs to brain cancer

Assistant field hockey coach Maria Whitehead lost her battle with brain cancer Wednesday evening. The 25-year old and 2003 graduate of Wake Forest had worked at Duke since February.

"She was just an incredible person," said Jacki Silar, associate athletic director and Duke's field hockey coach from 1981 to 1995. "Her life was field hockey. She gave so much to whoever touched her. Each of these kids has been touched by her. We'll never forget her."

Whitehead joined Duke's field hockey staff last winter after spending three years as head coach at St. Louis. She led her 2005 team to a school-record for wins before leaving to join Duke head coach Beth Bozman's staff.

"It is a really devastating loss for everyone," Bozman said. "Some people have a profound impact on everyone they meet, and Maria was that kind of person. Everyone in the field hockey community suffered a great loss."

At Wake Forest, Whitehead made the All-ACC team twice. Over her four years, the Demon Deacons reached three final fours. Whitehead was a member of Wake Forest's first national-championship field hockey squad in 2002.

With the ACC tournament being played in Chapel Hill this week, the news of Whitehead's death reverberated throughout the tight-knit field hockey community.

"Maria was a great competitor," North Carolina head coach Karen Shelton said. "Maria had a lot of fire. She was so instrumental in Wake Forest's emergence into the field hockey elite."

In her short time at Duke, Whitehead's influence was felt throughout the Duke community. A moment of silence was observed before the men's basketball game against Shaw.

"We certainly pass on our condolences and sympathy to women's field hockey and the family of Maria," football head coach Ted Roof said.

A memorial service will be held Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Duke Chapel in honor of Whitehead. Those close to Whitehead have requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke. The address is: P.O Box 3624, Durham, N.C. 27710, in care of Dr. Henry Friedman.

"She was a champion," Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said. "We will miss her."

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