Towson midfielder Fratzke won't quit

She comes back from torn knee ligament

March 10, 2010|By Katherine Dunn | katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Hillary Fratzke never needed a lacrosse field to hone her competitive edge. As the fifth of six siblings, the Towson midfielder had plenty of competition growing up.

Everything was a game in her Eastern Shore home. The siblings spanned nine years and didn't all play a lot of sports, but there was always something to compete for - many times of their own invention.

"Me and my little brother Andrew, at the first snow, we'd always run outside barefoot and we'd have to sprint up to the mailbox and back. It was a race. Barefoot. In the snow. Ridiculous, I know."

She and her sister Ashley even vied to see which one would get the first cavity.

When asked who won, Hillary looked crestfallen when admitting, "She did."

That determination shows on the lacrosse field, where she has picked up at least one point in all 56 games as a Tiger and has scored goals in 50 straight games heading into today's contest at Johns Hopkins. Her 271 draw controls rank third on the all-time NCAA list.

"She's always been driven," said Richard Fratzke, a single parent to his game-loving brood. "When she was in middle school and even elementary school, when they played, [her older sisters] basically used her as a doormat. They said, 'If you're going to play, you're going to have to suck it up and play,' and she did."

Having such a competitive nature also helped Fratzke off the field when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee three games into last spring.

"I knew a few girls who had done it, so as soon as it happened, it hurt a lot but I was more or less crying because, 'Oh, I know!' I'm walking off the field and [Towson coach Missy Doherty] is like, 'What does it feel like?' and I'm like, 'It feels like jelly, exactly what you'd expect it to.' "

Fratzke, 22, had never been sidelined through all her years of challenging her siblings, playing rec sports and earning Player of the Year honors at Queen Anne's High in soccer, basketball and lacrosse. Although it was her senior year and she was scheduled to graduate on time, she never thought about ending her lacrosse career.

"Absolutely not," said Fratzke, who is earning her master's degree in biology.

"I was really lucky, because if I had played in another game and we had not gone into postseason, I wouldn't have been able to medical-redshirt. I was on Cloud Nine knowing that. It made it so much easier going to rehab every day knowing I was going to come back."

And come back she has. Saturday, Fratzke matched her career-high five goals in a 14-10 win over then-No. 9 Loyola, the highest-ranked team the Tigers have ever beaten and the team against which she tore the ACL a year ago. The win boosted Towson (2-0) to No. 11 in the Inside Lacrosse media poll.

"She plays all over the field. She is a really dynamic player," Loyola junior Grace Gavin said. "She's good on attack. She's good on defense. Coming back after such a serious injury, it's really got to take determination and heart, and I think she's got it. She wants to be on the field, she wants to play her best and she's an awesome player."

In her last full season, 2008, Fratzke, who has an uncanny ability to anticipate the action, was named a first-team All-American and the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year. Not only did she lead the conference in scoring (86 points), she also led in draw controls (86), ground balls (56) and caused turnovers (47).

"That kind of speaks for itself," Doherty said. "Leading the conference in goals, caused turnovers, draw controls and ground balls - those are the workhorse stats. It's very, very rare for someone to lead in all those statistics. She's one of those rare people that combine talent with work ethic."

That combination led to Doherty recruiting Fratzke without seeing her play a lacrosse game. The coach saw exactly what she wanted on the basketball court.

"She was a late recruit for us," Doherty said. "We were done [with] our class and I got a call from a club coach. She hadn't committed anywhere, so I went and saw her play a basketball game and I told her I wanted her to come play lacrosse at Towson. In my recruiting book, next to her name I had 'Wheels,' for fast. She's just one of those kids that you really luck out with."

As a freshman, Fratzke set NCAA single-season records for draw controls per game with 6.29 and total draw controls with 107, a mark Maryland's Dana Dobbie broke two years later with 126.

Her tenacity on the draw make her an equal threat whether she's drawing the ball to herself or winning it on the ground ball. The Tigers have controlled 25 draws in their first two games, and Fratzke has won 14 of them.

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