April 9, 2010

By Amy Farnum

Freshman year is usually about learning the ropes, gaining some experience and waiting patiently for playing time. That wasn't the case for University of Maryland freshman women's lacrosse player Katie Schwarzmann.

Despite coming into a program that returned every starter from last year's NCAA semifinalist squad, Schwarzmann has made an immediate impact on a roster loaded with talented players.

"She's fast, she's explosive - she's great on both ends of the field," said head coach Cathy Reese. "She's a really strong true midfielder that has done a great job for us as a freshman."

"I was excited for what was ahead -- knowing the success they had last year and the team returning every starter," said Schwarzmann, a native of Sykesville, Md. "I was excited to help the team out and see where I could impact the team."

After not starting the first two games of the season, head coach Cathy Reese was forced to tweak the Terrapins' lineup, and gave Schwarzmann the starting nod against Atlantic Coast Conference-rival Duke.

"When we first started the season, we were looking forward to having some strong depth in our midfield," said Reese. "Katie didn't start the first two games of the season, but we were rotating her in a couple minutes into the game, which was good for us. After our second game, one of our defenders went down with an injury, and that allowed us to put Katie on the field. Our best lineup is when she is a part of it."

Schwarzmann stepped up to the challenge, registering three goals, an assist, two draw controls, five ground balls and three caused turnovers in a resounding 17-4 victory against the Blue Devils, earning WomensLax.com Rookie of the Week honors.

"She fit right in," said sophomore Karri Ellen Johnson. "We're definitely a fast-paced, fast-transition type of team and she fit right into that mold. She was exactly what we needed. She adds a whole different dimension and a lot of depth to our team."

Johnson, who earned ACC Rookie of the Year and First-Team All-America honors as a freshman last year, was familiar with Schwarzmann's situation.

"I gave her the same advice that my sister gave me - play like you belong and you're meant to be out there," said Johnson. "Katie is unstoppable with her speed, her quickness - she's so scrappy. She's a great addition to our team."

Schwarzmann has tallied 19 goals and seven assists for 26 points, which ranks fourth on the team behind Caitlyn McFadden (46 points), Johnson (45 points) and Sarah Mollison (35 points).

"If you shut down one person, the other six of us can score," said Johnson. "Because we have so many threats, that's what makes us so dangerous."

"We have so many threats," said Schwarzmann. "It gives us confidence knowing that if they try to shut down our big-name players, there are other people that can step up. We have so many different options."

Maryland (12-0) will need all of those options when the Terrapins travel to Chapel Hill for an ACC showdown at No. 3 North Carolina (10-1). The Tar Heels were the last team to defeat Maryland, handing the Terps their only loss last season -- a tough 8-7 defeat in last year's NCAA semifinals. North Carolina's only setback this year is a 13-12 overtime loss to league foe Virginia.

"The team is really excited to play, but not just because of the last time we played them," said Reese. "Our conference is so highly competitive. Of course, our last memories of playing Carolina aren't great. We felt like we didn't display what we are capable of in that game."

Although she has experienced some big games against nationally-ranked opponents, Schwarzmann knows that the UNC game might mean a little more to her teammates.

"I know that the rivalry is there, and what happened last year will be a factor, but I think we need to take it like any other game we've had so far and do the same things to be successful," said Schwarzmann.

Maryland takes on North Carolina on Saturday, April 10 at 11 a.m.