The U.S. women's national lacrosse team is glad to have Cookie on their side.
After the squad's practice Monday morning at the UMBC Soccer Stadium in preparation for the Federation of International Lacrosse Women's World Cup, which begins next week in Oshawa, Ontario, it's easy to see why.
Cookie is a menacing presence.
At 5 feet 10, Cookie — also known as Kristen Carr — is the tallest player on the American squad, towering over her teammates by an average of about five inches.
And Cookie is no cupcake.
The Baltimore native and Mercy graduate fiercely pursues loose balls, using her sizable frame to her advantage by launching it at opponents. Cookie hounds opposing attackers with the ball like a pit bull on an intruding trespasser, suffocating the space around the ball carrier with an up-close-and-personal, physical style of defending.
"Her presence alone is really intimidating to an attacker," teammate Lindsey Munday said. "She has great size, she has great power, and along with that she's really smart. I think she uses her body really well and she's really physical. It's not just one thing or the other; she sort of has it all as a defender.
"She's really tough, she's really feisty. We're just thankful she's on our team."
Added U.S. coach Ricky Fried: "She's one of the more visibly intimidating players that's out there, and it's funny because when you talk to her, her voice is not very imposing."
Carr received the nickname at age 6, while playing for an Under-10 travel team in Perry Hall. Older teammates referred to her as "Tough Little Cookie" because of her physical style, and "Cookie" has fittingly stuck ever since.
Carr doesn't know where her aggression stems from. Outside of athletics, the soft-spoken but intimidating defender is anything but, aside from an occasional spat of aggressive driving.
"Off the field I'm a little more quiet, but when I get on the field, I guess I feel like I get in this possessed kind of way in the moment," Carr said gently with a wide smile.
The transformation from intense aggression on the field to extreme tranquility off it is as instantaneous as flipping a switch.
"Anytime she's doing anything competitive, she's feisty. Anytime she's just talking to us as person off the field, she's so sweet," said Amber Falcone, a fellow U.S. defender and a college teammate of Carr's at North Carolina.
Carr's peaceful personality isn't all that's miscast by her aggressive style between the field's white lines.
"She's physical but also smart," Fried said. "She blends both toughness and finesse as a player. It's probably surprising when you see her initially and you're thinking, 'OK, she's just going to beat the heck out of somebody,' but she's able to beat them physically if it's a sizable player and she's able to stay with the quick, shifty player."
A three-sport athlete high school athlete at Mercy, Carr dropped basketball and soccer to focus on lacrosse at North Carolina after the Tar Heels offered a scholarship.
Carr says that multisport experience has helped mold her into the stout lacrosse defender she is now. Carr developed quick feet defensively playing basketball, and the quick transitions of soccer better prepared her for similar breakouts in lacrosse.
"Being able to play multiple sports definitely helped with lacrosse because you get to learn different nuances of different sports and you can kind of bring them to your game," Carr said.
One of eight World Cup rookies on the 18-person USA squad, Carr is a dynamic weapon, perfect for the aggressive style of play Fried has instilled in his team. And Carr loves being unleashed in it.
"It's fun and it definitely builds up the energy around the defensive unit when you can be that aggressive and tenacious," Carr said.
To defeat the defending champion Americans in the event, which runs July 11-20, the opposition will have to go through Cookie. Fried's happy it's not the other way around.
"People seem to be getting bigger, but I think it's rare to have her tools to play with the physicality she plays with and the finesse at the same time," Fried said. "We want to play a fast, aggressive game and we want to dictate to our opponent, whether we're on offense or defense, and she's someone who can do that."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun