Terps' Schwarzmann among sophomores looking to build on strong freshmen seasons

February 15, 2011|By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's Katie Schwarzmann couldn't have done much better as a college freshman.

Last spring, the Century graduate was the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, a third-team All-American and an integral part of a national championship team. She scored three goals in the Terrapins' 13-11 NCAA Division I title victory over five-time defending champ Northwestern and was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Now Schwarzmann and a handful of others who made stellar debuts last spring face another transition. How do they keep improving their games, take on more responsibility and handle the pressure of high expectations when the opposition knows a lot more about them?

One of only two freshmen named to the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Association's All-America team last spring along with Northwestern defender Taylor Thornton, Schwarzmann is putting in extra time to hone her skills and help her thwart defenses that will target her morethis spring.

"It's important to just get out there and work on things myself." Schwarzmann said. "Whether it's outside of practice or running or working on this or that, putting forth that little bit of extra effort that's unseen helps me maintain my play and improve from last year."

In women's lacrosse, few players succumb to the sophomore slump, but continuing to grow as a player after debuting at such a high level can be as big a challenge as making a successful jump from high school to the college game. Opponents are now well-versed in how each one plays the game, so big-name sophomores have to work that much harder to maintain a physical and mental edge.

Loyola coach Jen Adams said the transition from freshman to sophomore year is critical. She should know. Adams earned the first of her three National Player of the Year awards as a sophomore and still holds the NCAA record for career points.

"It's the time when you can tell the most how a player is going to develop," Adams said. "Coming in as freshmen, they can push themselves to do all the work off the field, but they don't know what level they're supposed to go at. After getting a year under your belt in college and having worked out in the weight room and done the conditioning and seen this whole other side — the mental preparation and everything else that goes into being a great player, you know what it takes."

Like Schwarzmann, Towson's Alexa Demski, the only true freshman on the All-Colonial Athletic Association team, and UMBC's Jamie Fahey, the America East Rookie of the Year, started working on the transition last summer.

Both defenders, the two former Loch Raven and Skywalkers teammates said they keep pushing themselves even more than their coaches do.

"I think it is hard, because you can't be complacent with what you're doing," Fahey said. "You have to get better each day. It's harder to be prepared and to do everything you have to do to be better than last year."

Knowing how to work out on their own over the summer and winter break in addition to putting in extra time during fall ball and preseason, the players realize what it's going to take to elevate their game.

Florida's Ashley Bruns, the American Lacrosse Conference Rookie of the Year from the Gators' first-year program, said she sees this transition as more challenging than last year when she led a mostly freshmen team in scoring with 48 goals and 31 assists.

"It's so different, because in college, they scout you. They know every move that you're going to make from watching so many of your games. Every game, it's just about increasing your play and changing up your shots and your feeds. It's maybe making more feeds and the different aspects of the game you have to change completely," said Bruns, who set a Mount Hebron scoring record with 103 goals and 63 assists in her senior year in high school.

Fahey said that's true on the other side of the ball as well.

"Because of all the film they're going to look at, they're going to see all your little habits," Fahey said, "so you have to try and change them and adjust yourself to who you're playing. I look forward to that challenge. I think it's fun to try to outthink other competitors."

The mental side of the game can get tricky for these sophomores, because they want to meet high expectations, but they don't want to put too much pressure on themselves.

"Mentally, it's a little stressful," Demski said. "Just because of having such a great freshman year, there is pressure on me to be better, but I try not to worry about that. When I go out on the field, I just play. If I'm better than last year, that's great and if I'm just as good that's OK, too."

Adams said Demski's approach is a good one.

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