New team offers touch of home

The Baltimore Sun

Annie Wagner was never unhappy during her two years at Johns Hopkins.

She ranked third in scoring on the Blue Jays as a sophomore in 2006 and figured prominently in coach Janine Tucker's plans for the next two years. She liked school, had a lot of friends and did well in class.

Still, when her sister, Janice, talked about her experiences at James Madison, Annie wondered if Harrisonburg, Va., might be the better place for her, too.

The sisters had always been close -- going to St. Paul's together and playing lacrosse together since they were little -- and they regretted not being at the same college. They also had two cousins at James Madison, and Annie was drawn to the faith-based community as well as the art program there.

"A lot of people transfer because they feel this huge disconnect or because they don't get along with the players or the coaches, but that was not my story," Annie Wagner said. "I was relatively happy at Hopkins. I loved the team and the girls and the coaches, but Hopkins couldn't offer everything I wanted."

So in August 2006, she made the move and she hasn't regretted it for a second.

Last spring, she was the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, leading the Dukes with 59 goals. This season, the senior attacker leads the team in goals with eight as the No. 15 Dukes (1-2) head to College Park to meet No. 4 Maryland (3-1) tomorrow at noon.

In addition to playing lacrosse, Wagner is president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and majors in art with a concentration in textiles and printmaking, a program Hopkins did not offer.

On the lacrosse field, Wagner's transfer coincided with the arrival of Dukes coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe.

"It was really lucky timing," Wagner said. "I fit perfectly into the game plan with what Shelley saw for the potential on the team. It really was that they needed a player like me and I needed a program like them -- and I got to play with my sister. I was on cloud nine."

At St. Paul's, Annie, who is a year older than Janice, didn't play much with her sister, because Janice tore the anterior cruciate ligament in both knees and missed their last two seasons together.

Even though Janice only played in three games last season, she is glad to have her sister with her.

"There's a comfort in having family around, someone who knows you and can talk to you apart from lacrosse. Someone who's always been there through everything," Janice Wagner said.

Annie Wagner credited her teammates with helping make her transition smooth, especially, she said, the unselfishness of Kelly Berger, who had been the CAA Player of the Year in 2006.

"We're pretty fortunate," Klaes-Bawcombe said, "in that everybody on this squad really embraces new talent and is not afraid of a challenge. They recognized that Annie could make and immediate impact and with her personality, the girls enjoyed being around her."

While last season's experience made the move seem perfect, Wagner struggled with it at first. She said it was almost like choosing between two families, her own and the one at Johns Hopkins.

It wasn't easy to tell Tucker either, but the Blue Jays coach, who also has a younger sister, understood and gave her a release so she didn't have to sit out a year.

"We had high expectations for her," Tucker said. "But as soon as she came into my office to tell me, she started bawling her eyes out. She really wanted to be with her sister and how do you not support that? It made perfect sense to me."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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