December 27, 2010

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This article appears in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which mails to US Lacrosse members this week. Don't get the mag? Join USL and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Singing Voice Mails Sold KEJ on Maryland

by Nelson Coffin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Maryland junior attacker Karri Ellen Johnson, nicknamed "Puddy," is already a two-time, first-team All-American and LM's 2011 Preseason Player of the Year.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

In wooing Karri Ellen Johnson to join the her program, Maryland coach Cathy Reese resorted to extreme — if permissible — measures.

No rules against singing, are there?

"She left singing voice mails," chortled Johnson, the 2011 Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year. "The Terp fight song."

Given what she knows now about the first two years of the junior's already brilliant career, Reese might have been inclined to compose, stage and perform an opera if it meant the 5-foot-7 attacker from Annapolis, Md., would come to College Park.

Johnson has been that good since a 2009 rookie campaign in which she produced 74 goals, 13 assists and 71 draw controls for the Terps, who fell to North Carolina in a national semifinal.

In 2010, there was no sophomore slump for the two-time first-team All-American, whose versatility already makes her one of the most valuable players in Maryland's storied history.

The Broadneck High grad led her team in goals (69) and draw controls (71) while becoming a terrific re-defender who caused 24 turnovers and vacuumed 27 ground balls.

Johnson capped off the season in fine fashion, scoring three times in the Terps' 13-11 streak-busting triumph over Northwestern in the national championship game. Maryland is 43-2 with Johnson in the fold.

After all that, what can she do for an encore?

"There are always things you can do better," Johnson said. "I'd like to be more dynamic, work from the top better, dodging, to make more connections. I think we have an amazing team coming back. And our coaches give us the freedom to play. They have great confidence in us."

Although she's become a big name in her sport, Johnson was a no-name when she returned from the hospital as a newborn with her parents, Kelly and Jeffrey.

By the time they named her Karri (CAR-ee) Ellen, she was already tagged "Puddy," the moniker still used by her teammates and parents.

"It sounds so weird when people call me Karri Ellen," she said. "Nobody I know well does that."

Defenders probably have other names for her, many of which could be unsuitable for a family publication.

Her coach, though, does nothing but — pardon the expression — sing her praises.

"She's one of the players that, even as a coach and someone who played, you're wowed by her," said Reese, now in her fifth year at her alma mater after a successful stint at Denver. "From a coach's perspective, she's just fun to watch — so creative and an outstanding shooter-scorer."

To prove the point, Johnson's shooting percentage (.519) last spring was the best on the team for anyone with more than 31 shots.

"I'm trying to be fitter and faster," said Johnson, adept at using her 5-foot-7 frame to keep defenders at bay. "You have to let them (defenders) know that you're there."

Undoubtedly, it would be better for Terp opponents if she wasn't.


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