January 28, 2011

Hertsch Relishes Dirty Work on 'D'

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Hofstra defender Katie Hertsch has a relentless approach that earned her a spot on the 2010-11 U.S. women's senior national team, which plays Virginia and Maryland this weekend at Champion Challenge.

When Ohio University cut its varsity women's lacrosse program in 2007, Katie Hertsch could have second-guessed her decision to play lacrosse exclusively in college. One of Maryland's top athletes in soccer and indoor track, as well as lacrosse, she could have pursued any avenue or even continued her career in karate as a black belt. Instead, the Westminster native and Winter Mill product chose to accept a lacrosse scholarship to play for the Bobcats.

A year later, Ohio dumped lacrosse and three other sports before Hertsch ever had an opportunity to step on the field. But the Bobcats' loss was Hofstra's gain.

Hertsch landed on Long Island and started immediately for the Pride. A self-proclaimed "gym rat" whose favorite workout consists of hang cleans, the 5-foot-4 defender took a liking to head coach Abby Morgan and the freedom Hofstra affords its defense in causing turnovers. Hertsch even earned the nickname "Robocop" from teammate Alysse Ruszkowski.

"She always thought I was unstoppable. Never stopped, just like a robot," Hertsch said. "Doesn't break down."

The nickname stuck at Hofstra, and Hertsch's reputation has followed her to the 2010-11 U.S. women's senior national team. She emerged as a surprise candidate at Team USA tryouts last summer. While coaches worked to convert players who are midfielders and attackers for their college teams to defense, Hertsch knew her role and relished it.

"I just loved having that hard mentality," she said, "that work ethic that defenders don't usually get credit for. But we know we have it, and we take pride in that."

Hertsch, a senior, is a big reason why Hofstra, despite its youth, was ranked No. 20 in Lacrosse Magazine's preseason NCAA Division I women's lacrosse poll. The Pride hopes she will keep pressure off goalkeeper Jackie Pandolf, a first-year starter.

"A lot of people are saying we're young," Hertsch said. "We're just trying to prove that we're not."

On Team USA, Hertsch gets to be a rookie again. She's one of 12 current collegians on the U.S. senior team, which will play Virginia and Maryland this weekend at Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event. The 11 a.m. game Sunday against the defending Division I national champion Terps will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and on tape delay (around 12 midnight) on ESPNU.

If you don't notice Hertsch, her opponent will.

"I love dictating where an attacker goes and having a unit with my defense," she said, "and being unstoppable."

New uniforms for U.S. women

For the first time, the U.S. women's national senior lacrosse team will sport custom Champion® Athleticwear uniforms on the lacrosse field at Champion Challenge.

Click here for the full press release.

Zimmerman follows heart to UNC, Team USA

When she was being recruited out of West Hill (N.Y.) High School in Syracuse, Laura Zimmerman had heard whispers that the great Gary Gait might be headed home to the Carrier Dome. But the temptation to follow the family pedigree -- her grandfather was a quarterback for the Orange football team -- and her teenage sports idol Gerry McNamara, the scrappy Syracuse basketball guard, was not enough to keep her from committing to North Carolina.

Even if it wasn't for soccer, as Zimmerman had envisioned.

"My dream was always to go to North Carolina, but more so for soccer, especially watching Mia Hamm when I was little," Zimmerman said. "When I had the opportunity with lacrosse it was like, wow, this is really a good opportunity."

Zimmerman made the most of it, especially as a freshman in 2009, when she scored three goals -- including the game-winner with 8:22 left in the second half -- of UNC's NCAA tournament semifinal victory over previously unbeaten Maryland.

"That was the first time we had been to the final four in a while," Zimmerman said. "Basically our coach [Jenny Levy] told us as underclassmen, nobody knows who you really are."

If opponents did not know Zimmerman then, they do now. She scored 35 goals and dished 17 assists in 2010, as the Tar Heels returned to the final four. Expectations will be even higher now that she and fellow attacker Katy Fitzgerald are on the U.S. women's national team, for which Zimmerman hopes to enjoy a Mia Hamm-like career.

"When it's my turn, I'll get my shot," Zimmerman said of her approach to U.S. tryouts. "Once I did get out there, it was taking care all details and staying true to he small stuff."

Kjellman relishes the draw

Kristen Kjellman seldom took draws until her sophomore year at Northwestern, when head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller needed her athleticism in the center circle. Now, nobody this side of the border does it better.

Kjellman said she's looking forward to drawing against the likes of Maryland's Karri Ellen Johnson and other collegians this weekend.

"It's finding someone who really knows the tactics behind it. I talk to a lot of high school coaches who say, 'How do you do that? We just try to have our girls pull really hard and draw straight up in the air to try to win it' But there really is some strategy behind it," Kjellman said of her quick ascension in the center circle. "Get some good training and get some practice, plus reps before and after practice."

Kjellman, who currently lives in New York as an East Coast sales representative for Nike's lacrosse division, is one of 12 U.S. team members remaining from the 2009 World Cup gold medal squad. The others: Sarah Albrecht, Sarah Bullard, Caroline Cryer, Amber Falcone, Megan Huether, Erica LaGrow, Caitlyn McFadden, Lindsey Munday, Katie Rowan, Acacia Walker and Devon Wills.

Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event featuring the U.S. men's and women's national teams against top college programs, returns to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Jan. 29-30, 2011. Click here for more information, including game and clinic schedules.

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