Key's impressive legacy only missing NCAA title

May 13, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun reporter

One of Johns Hopkins coach Janine Tucker's favorite stories about senior All-American Mary Key has nothing to do with setting records or scoring goals.

It's all about the little girls with big dreams who come to Homewood Field to watch the Blue Jays women's lacrosse team play. Many of them are Key's own little fan club. Hers is the autograph they want, but she gives them more.

"Mary will bend down and get eye-to-eye with that kid, spend time talking to them about the sport that she loves," Tucker said. "That, to me, could be a defining moment for one of those young girls. That really makes me smile to see how much joy Mary gets out of passing along her love for the game."

Those are rewarding moments for Key, too.

"It's nice to have that experience, knowing that you're having an impact on these little girls' lives and what they think they want to be in the future," she said.

Those little girls couldn't find a better role model.

As Key's storied college career comes to an end - sometime between today's NCAA tournament first-round game at Hofstra and the May 27th NCAA championship final - she ranks as one of the most prolific scorers in women's lacrosse history, but one who defines her personal success in terms of team success.

"If I had done a lot this season, but we didn't make it to the tournament, it wouldn't have meant nearly as much to me," said Key, who is tied for fifth on the all-time Division I career scoring list with 373 points.

"The ultimate goal is to win games and win the national championship, and if I have to score a lot of goals and have a lot assists to do that, then that's what I want to do to help my team get to where we all want to be."

Key, 21, holds 20 school records and is tied for four more. This season, she ranks second in Division I with 6.17 goals per game. She has scored 62 goals with 49 assists this season.

Since she scored five goals in her college debut, Key has accumulated 229 goals and 144 assists. She has scored at least one point in every game of her college career - 68 straight, the longest active streak in Division I.

Earlier this week, the two-time All-American was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the best player in women's college lacrosse.

"What's so impressive about her is that she's not a secret," Penn State coach Suzanne Isidor said. "Every team is worried about Mary Key and every team has some kind of defensive scheme for her, but other than Northwestern, nobody has been able to slow her down. ... Every team focuses on stopping her, and she is still consistently scoring when she's face-guarded and double-teamed."

For Key, who has been the franchise player in the Blue Jays' rise to national prominence in Division I, there's only one thing missing before she makes her transition into the real world - a national championship.

The Blue Jays (11-7) are seeded seventh in the NCAA tournament and are looking for their first trip to the Division I final four.

Even if the Blue Jays don't make it this year, Key's influence will linger at Hopkins.

"She has actually helped to create a style of play that we're recognized for," Tucker said. "We want to play up-tempo, fun, fun-to-watch, flashy type of game, and Mary has been on the cutting edge with her skills, pushing the game."

Key, an All-Metro soccer and lacrosse player at St. Mary's in Annapolis, plans to stay in the game for at least a little longer. A member of the U.S. developmental squad, she wants to take a shot at the elite national team.

But for the first time since she was a tot, playing in the backyard of her Stevensville home with her seven older siblings, she will not be playing sports every day.

Key has a job prospect with an athletic apparel company. A psychology major with a minor in business, she said her education and her athletic experience have made her feel fully prepared to enter the business world after Thursday's graduation.

While she's ready for the transition to the working world, she'll never really leave sports behind.

Sports has been "my life," she said, finishing the sentence with a laugh.

"I don't see sports not being a part of my life - ever," Key said. "I love watching football, basketball, baseball, everything; and I enjoy playing just as many.

"Being in a sports industry, I'm definitely going to be interacting with a lot of athletes. I think it's still going to be a major part of who I am." katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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