In each of the Maryland women's lacrosse team's five games against Syracuse in the past three seasons, Terps attacker Megan Whittle and Orange defender Kathy Rudkin developed something of a rivalry during the series, which Maryland swept.
This year, though, the friendly rivals are teammates.
Rudkin transferred to Maryland for the 2018 season, bolstering the Terps defense and playing for what she considers the premier program in the country in her senior campaign.
"I couldn't be happier that we're wearing the same jersey this year," Whittle said. "We need a good, strong defender that's played a couple years."
During her tenure at Syracuse, Rudkin played in three NCAA tournaments, including two semifinal losses to Maryland. Last year, she played in all 22 games, earning 20 starts, and notched 33 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers and 15 draw controls.
The Annapolis native, who had been recruited by Maryland in high school, said she transferred to be closer to her family, and because she admired the team and its coaching staff after years of facing them on the field.
"Playing against Maryland is very tough because Maryland is the most competitive team in the country. They just play with a confidence and finesse that no other team can truly match," Rudkin said. "Being able to finally feel what it's like to be on this team is something so special. … The opportunity just kind of presented itself and I'm really lucky that I'm here."
Rudkin has found her role on the Terps early in the season, starting both of Maryland's first two games and earning four ground balls and one caused turnover in the Terps' 16-14 win over No. 4 Florida on Saturday.
"She played very well in Florida matched up against one of their best players," Whittle said. "[I'm] really proud of the way she's playing and what's exciting is how great she's going to be."
Coach Cathy Reese said she likes Rudkin's quickness, footwork and one-on-one defense.
"She's been a great addition to our team and program, and I couldn't be more happy [and] more proud with the way that she's developing," Reese said. "It has been fun for me to watch her confidence grow as she learns to play within our defensive system."
Rudkin, meanwhile, is loving her new home in College Park.
"I don't really have enough words to put how much this team has meant to me this season," she said. "I'm just so blessed and lucky to be here. I have some of the best teammates and coaches in the country — the best — and it's just been such an incredible journey so far, and I can't wait to see where it takes us for the rest of the season."