On February 25, the Maryland women's lacrosse team played its first game at Maryland Stadium in nearly 10 years. Ranked second in the nation, the Terps were facing then-No. 1 North Carolina in a rematch of the previous two national championships.
For midfielder Kali Hartshorn, the team's lone true freshman starter, it was just the third game of her college career. But she didn't need any motivation.
"I was pumped for that game," Hartshorn said. "I was just feeling the energy from the whole place."
Just 31 seconds into the contest, Hartshorn received a pass from midfielder Jen Giles. With her back to goal, she feinted to her right, turned to her left and uncorked a low shot past Tar Heels goaltender Caylee Waters.
With her fifth shot at Maryland, Hartshorn gave the Terps a lead they didn't relinquish. The following Tuesday, they jumped North Carolina to take the top spot in the national rankings — a position they haven't surrendered.
Hartshorn's opening goal ignited a strong rookie campaign. She's become a staple for the Terps, who enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
"Between my teammates and me being able to score against such a good team like that," Hartshorn said, "it definitely gave me the confidence to keep moving forward and keep scoring."
Hartshorn's path to College Park was different than nearly three quarters of the players in the program: She's not from Maryland.
The rookie hails from Allentown, New Jersey, beginning her recruiting process by looking at Rutgers and Princeton when she was in the eighth grade. However, she wasn't impressed by the schools just 30-45 minutes from her hometown.
When Hartshorn visited Maryland as a freshman in high school, she loved the atmosphere of a "lacrosse world" in College Park.
"One of our first conversations — she can be kind of straight — and she said something along the lines of, 'I want to win, and I want to be the best at what I'm doing,'" coach Cathy Reese said.
The midfielder came to Maryland in the fall as part of Inside Lacrosse's No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Hartshorn was listed No. 29 of the freshmen, but she wasn't even among the five highest ranked Terps rookies.
Still, from the first time Reese and her staff saw Hartshorn at a camp they hosted, they believed she was a "total stud."
"Regardless of whether you're No. 1 or 30," Hartshorn said, "if you go out there and score, you're a lacrosse player."
FINDING A NICHE
Hartshorn had few difficulties adjusting to a new state with so many players who knew each other, integrating herself into the Maryland family.
There was one wrinkle in the transition, though. Hartshorn said the style of play between New Jersey and Maryland was not only different, but noticeable the moment she stepped onto the field with her teammates.
Hartshorn's former coach at Ultimate Lacrosse Club in New Jersey, Michele DeJuliis, described that difference as a consistency and fluidity in play with players from Maryland. She said they're aggressive, yet under control, with a high lacrosse IQ and an understanding of how to play as a unit.
Though Hartshorn didn't develop in Maryland, DeJuliis knew she'd fit in.
"From the moment you watch her for the first time, you know that she's that type of player," DeJuliis said. "She's smooth with her skills, she's a fighter and she's tough like those Maryland players."
Reese attributed Hartshorn's seamless transition to her competitive nature, saying it's "driven her to be a force all over the field."
‘SETTING HER OWN MARK’
At the team's media day Feb. 6, Reese announced Hartshorn would take over draw duties, a role occupied by three-time Tewaaraton Award winner Taylor Cummings for the past four years. Even Hartshorn thought that would be the extent of her involvement for the time being.
She knew filling Cummings' job could draw comparisons, but Hartshorn said she wants to start her "own way of playing" rather than emulate the former star, whom she described as "very unique." However, she has used Cummings as a resource.
Before the North Carolina game, Hartshorn reached out to Cummings to ask for tips prior to squaring up with Tar Heel attacker Sammy Jo Tracy, one of the nation's best on the draw.
Hartshorn is the team's second-leading scorer with 49 goals. With 85 draw controls, she's nine away from Cummings' freshman total. The century mark is within reach, as the Terps open their NCAA tournament slate Sunday and could play up to four postseason contests.
"To be able to step on the field coming out of high school, do the draw, get it every time and just be such a staple in our offense, it's really exciting," attacker Megan Whittle said. "I don't even think she's hit her peak yet."
Reese doesn't want to compare Hartshorn and Cummings, partly because they're different players and partly because of Cummings' legacy at Maryland. After all, the ten-year coach said Hartshorn is "setting her own mark."
"She's got big shoes to fill, but Kali is going to be Kali," DeJuliis said. "She's going to do her best to make Taylor proud of what she's doing, and make Maryland proud of what she's doing.
"She's going to make a name for herself."