Pinpointing the defining moment of Elizabeth Ryan's three-sport Roland Park career comes down to two dramatic possibilities.
The options: a trick field hockey goal against Severn in 1997, and a last-second lacrosse goal against St. Mary's last spring.
At Severn, as Ryan stood with her back to the goal, a shot caromed off the goalie's pads toward her. She had one choice -- to slam the ball back through her legs toward the cage. In a split second, she did it and scored. The Reds won, 2-0.
Against St. Mary's in a tied lacrosse game, Ryan took a pass from Lauren Miller and raced to goal with five seconds left. After several fakes but just before time expired, she fired into the net. The Reds won, 12-11.
Which best defines the senior? Probably neither moment without the other.
To excel on the playing field, Ryan applies instinctive reactions and fierce determination to make the play at any cost.
"She really thrives off of the quick, fast-paced play, where she relies on her quick reaction," said Reds lacrosse coach Tara Kramer. "The plays she lends best to are the quick-sticks or the reaction plays, where she is not given time to think about things too much.
"I tend to joke that she's always causing chaos. She always creates this scuttle, because she's so aggressive. If she's not coming up with it, she's flying in midair and flicking it to a teammate. She's always there, creating, making something happen."
Ryan, a two-time All-Metro and All-State first-team player in field hockey, has been a prolific scorer during her senior year. She scored nine goals and 14 assists for last fall's No. 1-ranked field hockey team and has scored 35 goals and put out 29 assists so far for the area's No. 3 lacrosse team.
Ryan, who signed early to play lacrosse at Georgetown, is more than just a shooter. When she does not score, she often makes the critical play that leads to a goal.
"She has that innate ability to be where the ball is going to be," said field hockey coach Debbie Bloodsworth. "You just don't teach people where to be or how to dive and reach for the ball. She just has this inner drive to do it."
Ryan rarely leaves the field with a clean uniform.
"She's not afraid to dive headfirst if there's a ground ball -- in any sport," said three-sport teammate Meghan Kelly. "She's always hustling. She never stops."
`I always want the ball'
As a little girl, Ryan loved baseball, but she doubts playing a boys sport until middle school developed her aggressive side. She believes it came naturally.
"I always want the ball, no matter what," said Ryan.
"Baseball wasn't such an aggressive contact sport. I've always had the desire to get the ball and do well. Off the field, I consider myself pretty laid-back. It's just when I'm on the field, I'm all aggression."
That drive carried over to the basketball court, where coach Scott Buckley fueled Ryan's intensity.
"I'm all over her in practice every day for anything I can think of," said Buckley. "I've yelled at Liz for years. She works so hard, and I yell at her and tell her she's not working hard, and that fires her up."
At small forward, the 5-foot-6 Ryan constantly found herself battling and scraping against taller, more skillful players. Not a big scorer, she excelled at rebounding and defense.
Buckley assigned her to guard the opposition's best player. She faced all kinds of players, from the skill of McDonogh's 5-6 Vicki Brick, the All-Metro Player of the Year, to height of players up to 6-4.
"Liz just seems to put everything she has into every play," said Buckley, who nominated her for the McCormick Unsung Hero award. "Her skills in basketball aren't where they are in other sports, but she gets by with intensity and desire."
A scar on Ryan's chin would appear to be a badge of her intensity, but Ryan just laughs at the implication.
She's had the scar, which resulted from surgery to remove a gland, since she was 3 years old.
"Everyone thinks it's a huge battle wound," said Ryan. "Sometimes I tell these stories, but then I'll say, `No. I had a gland removed.' They say, `No way.' But really, I didn't do anything exciting to get this."
She just does something really exciting to get a goal.