As the national anthem plays before a Johns Hopkins women's soccer game, No. 13 for the Blue Jays stands in line with her teammates facing the flag. Her mind is fast at work before every game as she visualizes herself finishing from different spots on the field.
Hannah Kronick, a junior forward, leads the Blue Jays (10-0-0 overall, 3-0-0 Centennial Conference) in goals (10) and assists (4) in helping the team to its highest ranking in its 22-year history: No. 2 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division III poll.
“I'm trying to be a lot more attacking and a lot more threatening when I have the ball at my feet,” said Kronick, who was named the NSCAA Division III Player of the Week two weeks in a row (Sept. 1-8 and Sept. 9-16).
“My forte is definitely finishing inside the box,” Kronick said.
Kronick scored 43 goals during her first two seasons at Hopkins, one more than she had during a four-year varsity career at Westfield (N.J.) High.
“I knew Hannah wasn't even close to her ceiling when she left high school,” said Alex Schmidt, her high school coach.
So where are all the goals coming from?
“Honestly, I am not sure,” Kronick said. “I was really never like a super goal scorer in high school. That wasn't really what I was known for at all.”
Said Hopkins coach Leo Weil: “We had no idea that she could be such a goal scorer.”
Before each game, Kronick is superstitious about which line she warms up in, and she makes sure not to put too many balls into the net before the game, stopping at a certain point. It's as if she is saving the rest for game time.
When the Blue Jays visited then-No. 1 Messiah on Sept. 4, they rallied to beat the back-to-back defending champions, 2-1, on two goals by Kronick. That same week on the road, Kronick scored as Hopkins came from behind to beat then-No. 5 Carnegie Mellon, 3-2.
“Taking down Messiah was crazy. That was awesome for us,” Kronick said.
With that game tied at 1 in the 73rd minute, Kronick had the ball near the corner and was “at the most impossible angle.” After realizing she couldn't cross it over to a teammate, she kicked the ball toward the goal; the Messiah goalie saved the shot at first, but it slipped through her hands and into the net.
“There's shooters and there's finishers, and Hannah is definitely a finisher,” Weil said.
She wasn't always that way.
During her freshman year, Kronick worked more as a ball distributor. As the season progressed, she tried to emulate then-senior Erica Suter (River Hill), the program's leading career scorer with 55 goals.
“We were very different players, but … she taught me so much,” Kronick said.
Kronick learned to attack more and handle the ball longer. She scored 24 goals last season — the program's single-season record — and with the 10 goals she has through the team's first 10 games this season, she has 53 for her career and is nearing Suter's mark.
Suter remembers seeing “a lot of potential” in Kronick, adding, “I'm really thrilled for her.”
While Kronick is the dominant force, the Blue Jays' success has been a team effort — and it's a large team.
Weil has 35 players, which he acknowledges is a lot. But even with such a big roster, most of the women receive consistent playing time, adding uncommon depth.
“I don't know that I ever envisioned that, you know, we'd be the kind of program that was competing for a national championship year in and year out,” said Weil, who has been with the program since it began in 1992.
“It's a good feeling. I think it's a real compliment to our players,” Weil said of their No. 2 ranking.
The Blue Jays are No. 1 in the D3soccer.com poll, in which coaches vote. Weil joked that his vote might have something to do with the top spot.
Kronick said last season's team struggled when it was down in games. This year has been different.
“It's definitely a resilient group,” Weil said. “When we were down last year, we just stayed down. … It's sort of a refuse-to-lose group.”
It's the kind of team Kronick wanted to play for when she was deciding where to attend college.
She fell in love with Hopkins, which she thought was the best fit for her academically and athletically.
Before she ever stepped onto the field wearing blue and white, Kronick told her father, Andrew, who coached her at the youth level and played Division III soccer at Pitzer College, “I want to leave a mark on this program.”
She already has — and not just on the stat sheet.
“Solid citizen,” Weil said. “Hannah is somebody that everybody respects.”
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