Each week, The Baltimore Sun publishes a Q&A with an area college lacrosse player to help you become more acquainted with the player and his/her team. Today's guest is Maryland senior attacker Alex Aust. The Bullis graduate has made assisting her signature contribution to the No. 1 Terps' 19-0 season and their No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament as they prepare to host Towson or Stony Brook in a second-round game Sunday at noon.
Aust, who leads the team in points with 108, has 48 assists this season, ranking eighth in Division I. Her 125 career assists rank second among the all-time Terps behind Jen Adams and Kelly Amonte Hiller. The All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and Tewaaraton Award nominee has 268 points, 10th on Maryland's career list.
How has your ability to assist developed at Maryland and become your signature?
I had the luxury of playing behind such awesome attackers before I kind of fell into that position. I played behind Sarah Mollison, who the same way played behind the net and always assisted me, and then I played with Karri Ellen Johnson and Kristy Black, just really smart attackers who taught me how to feed the ball. And having Quinn Carney be my coach my last three years, she helped me develop into the player I am now, to see the field and see where my teammates are going to be open and to feed it into space for them.
What are you looking for as the play develops when you're behind the goal?
Just keeping my head up and having that field sense. We have such awesome chemistry. All seven attackers can score. I think as the year develops, just knowing where people want to catch it, whether it's out far and they want to run onto it or it's in close. Getting comfortable with my teammates just makes my job a lot easier back there.
How important is the mental side of the game in the NCAA tournament?
Taking it one step at a time, not focusing on the outcome of the game is our biggest thing. Obviously we have our goals, but focusing on all those little things, success will come from that. Having above 50 percent shooting average or keeping the other team under 10 or five goals or winning draw controls — all those little things, if we take care of that, the end result will take care of itself.
What's going to be the most critical thing for the attack if you're going to win the national championship?
Honestly, just playing our game, playing Maryland lacrosse, not letting another team take us out of it and just stressing being smart. I think a lot of the times that we've looked back at games and thought we could have played better is because we had too many turnovers or we'd get so excited to score, so we'd try to force it in a little too much. I think being really disciplined and sticking to the plan will ultimately lead to our success.
How does the atmosphere surrounding the game change once you get to the NCAA tournament?
It's definitely our favorite part of the year. We call our regular season part one and then the second chapter is ACCs and now we're on the final chapter, where it doesn't really matter what we did the rest of the year. It worked out that we became the No. 1 seed, which is awesome, but as we've seen in a lot of games this year, anyone can beat anyone and now it's winner-go-home, so it doesn't matter if you win by 10 goals or one. At this point, we're just excited to finally be here again and show what we have, what we're made of.
Does the Maryland legacy — 11 national championships, 24 straight NCAA tournament bids — help the team or add more pressure?
I think it's a little of both, but it's also that we are surrounded by such amazing alumnae. We still have all of our alumnae come to a lot of our games and send us texts before every game, just making sure we're excited. I think it shows in our game that all of us play with pride for Maryland. We want to be here, and from my own experience being on the team for four years, it doesn't matter what people have done in the past, All that matters is what's going to happen now.
Did Northwestern's turnaround against Florida last week — going from losing, 22-4, to winning, 8-3 — make an impression on your team?
Absolutely. It's anyone's game at this point of the year. It doesn't matter what happened the last three months of games. It all comes down to now. A lot of people have been asking the question, 'Does being the No. 1-ranked team give you a lot of pressure?' but we worked hard to get here. Now, Towson or Stony Brook, whichever one we get to play, that's going to be our first game, we can't really look further ahead.
Even though your team is focused, it still has to be tough not to be distracted by all the things that come along with being the favorite — the No. 1 seed, the No, 1 ranking, the 19-0 record. Is that just a matter of experience?
Yeah, definitely. I think our coaches do a really good job of making sure we all just focus on us and of making sure everyone has the confidence to know that we can do this and not focus on anyone else. It's hard not to watch, like that Northwestern game, but in the end, all that matters is who we face and how we play.
What has been most rewarding about being part of the Maryland program?
It's having the success that we've had but sharing it with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. I've created relationships that are going to last me the rest of my life. My whole team's some of my best friends. I get to play with my little sister [Nicole, a sophomore defender]. Getting to play for Maryland under [coaches Cathy Reese, Caitlyn McFadden and Lauri Kenis], having the success of four ACC championships and winning a national championship [in 2010], it just been awesome.