A few years ago, Kristin Schwab thought about leaving Friends School for greener athletic pastures.
Schwab, a second-team All-Metro field hockey midfielder and one of only three sophomores on the 2002 All-Metro teams, excelled from the moment she picked up a stick in the sixth grade.
In seventh grade, her middle school team went undefeated. But her high school teams have not been able to follow that up with an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title.
"I'm so competitive it's hard sometimes to play at a school like Friends where we're not known for our athletics," said Schwab.
"In eighth and ninth grade, I thought about transferring to Bryn Mawr or St. Paul's, but then I decided that I liked the academics here, the environment and I really liked my coaches, so I thought I could learn from them and develop."
Schwab, 16, admitted that it took a while to adopt that mature attitude, but she is reaping the rewards. Comfortable with her decision to stay at Friends, she also plays lacrosse and indoor soccer, plays bass guitar in the jazz ensemble, serves in the student senate and holds a 4.1 grade point average.
A year-round lacrosse player who helped the Quakers to a runner-up finish in the IAAM B Conference last spring, Schwab is torn between the two sports and would like to play both in college.
However, Schwab stands out more on the hockey field, where she controls the action for the Quakers. Opposing coaches build their defensive strategies around trying to stop her.
"She has that ability of weaving through an entire team. She has those type of stick skills," said Archbishop Spalding coach Leslee Brady. "You have to keep the ball away from Kristin. That's the way you have to play Friends."
While all that defensive attention can result in some frustration, it also makes Schwab feel even better about her decision not to transfer.
"If you work hard, you can excel anywhere you go," she said. "I still dream that we can win the championship. It could be the year. You never know."
In the meantime, she is determined to improve her game and contribute to the growth of a Quakers squad that is finishing strong, heading into this afternoon's IAAM tournament opener at Park.
Before Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Roland Park, the Quakers (6-6-4) had gone unbeaten for three weeks. In five A Conference games, including ties with then No. 15 St. Mary's, Park and Notre Dame Prep, Schwab scored or assisted on all of her team's goals. She finished the regular season with 12 goals and five assists.
Schwab has spent two years in the U.S. Field Hockey Association's Olympic-development-style Futures Program and has been to several camps, but her game is more consistent with that of a year-round club player.
"If she has the ball, you know she's threatening," said Bryn Mawr coach Jeanette Budzik, "because she's very quick-minded and you're not sure what she's going to do with it. When she makes that decision, she has the skill, speed and stickwork to do what she wants to do."
That ability to maintain control of the ball at speed - and she is fast - is perhaps her most impressive trait, but Schwab said stick skills never seemed all that difficult to her.
"It came so naturally," said Schwab. "I made the A team [the first time she tried out for the middle school team] and I hadn't even picked up a stick before."
But her coaches say the skills come so easily because Schwab never stops working on them.
"She can dazzle you with her stickwork and she's the kid who stays after practice taking a bag of balls down to the cage and continuing to work on her stickwork," said Friends coach Judy Turnbaugh. "I've never coached a player with so much talent and such desire, dedication and discipline."