For the last eight years, the month of May for Katie Schwarzmann meant gearing up for postseason play — the high school state playoffs, the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.
Like all good things, though, Schwarzmann's run as a student-athlete came to a close last season, when she wrapped up a historic lacrosse career at the University of Maryland on the field at Villanova Stadium in Philadelphia.
Now, the Sykesville native has traded her mouth guard and stick for a whistle and a clipboard as a graduate assistant coach at Mount St. Mary's University.
"One part of me thinks it's bitter sweet. I wish I was playing," said Schwarzmann, knowing she won't compete in her school colors again. "This is a stepping stone in my life."
Though she isn't sure what her future holds, the two-time winner of the Tewaarton Award, college lacrosse's highest honor, is enjoying her involvement with the sport, all the while pursuing her Master of Business Administration.
She may have never fully considered continuing her career as a coach, but then again, she never ruled it out.
"If you asked me that question five years ago, I wouldn't have said that," she said. "But a great opportunity presented itself, and I took it."
A star in the making
When Schwarzmann graduated from Century High School in 2009, she held county records in goals scored in a season (106) and career (307) and was named a High School All-American three times. She was also part of three state championship teams during her four years as a Knight.
Century coach Rose Pentz, who has seen legions of talent pass through her program over the years, is awestruck when it comes to what her former pupil has achieved.
"It is unbelievable that I had an opportunity to coach her," Pentz said. "There's no other words for it, other than to say that I learned so much from her.
"I knew she was going to be an impact player."
At Maryland, she was named a four-time Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association All-American, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and conference tournament MVP as a junior and a senior. She also became just the third women's lacrosse player to win the Tewaarton in back-to-back seasons.
Just as her high school team achieved success, the Terps also moved mountains during her stay in College Park. Maryland won a national championship in her freshman year and lost in the NCAA tournament finals by a goal in both 2011 and 2013). The team also reached the Final Four in 2012.
She was also a fixture on the U.S. National Team.
Still, it was difficult for Pentz to see the future star transitioning to the coaching ranks so soon after her college playing days came to a close.
"We had a lot of talks, but I think it was a little bit surprising even for her," she said. "Did I ever think she couldn't do it? Absolutely not. I watched her run clinics and camps at Century High School. The kids loved her, and she related to them so well."
The youngest of four, Schwarzmann followed her older siblings when it came to their experience in the sport.
Her two sisters both played lacrosse at Johns Hopkins University, and one of them, Lauren, is now an assistant coach at Stanford University.
Though Schwarzmann said she's learned much from all her former coaches over the years, it's clear the motivation to teach the game isn't something new.
The next adventure
Following graduation, Schwarzmann's summer was fairly hectic. The U.S. team competed in the World Cup in Canada — time she might have otherwise spent contemplating her next move in life.
When the graduate assistant position at Mount St. Mary's became available, it was the "perfect opportunity" to get the best of both worlds.
Accustomed to a routine of practices, workouts and film study from a player's standpoint, she said the transition to coaching isn't all that different.
Now, much of that preparation takes place in an office, where the coaching staff goes over the day's agenda. It's those behind-the-scenes moments she said she was never aware of during her playing days.
The Mount St. Mary's women's lacrosse team boasted a record of just 3-13 this season, but that hasn't detracted from the journey she's on.
With one more academic year to go in her MBA program, Schwarzmann is noncommittal when it comes to her coaching future.
Though the work is challenging and rewarding, she may be looking at other ways to combine her education and the sport. Having received a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and marketing from Maryland, Schwarzmann has a chance to seek out new opportunities, in lacrosse or not.
"I'm not sure where that's going to lead me," she said. "I think it's exciting in the next couple of years to see where it will take me."