Kristen Carr Era at Towson Begins with a Focus on Joy


Kristen Carr was hired this summer to be Towson's next women's lacrosse coach.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Kristen Carr said.

It sounds cliché, but you can quite literally hear Carr’s smile through the phone. The last few years had been a period of transition for Carr, who was one of the final people cut from the 2022 U.S. women’s national team that went on to win a world title on home soil. She left her post as an assistant at Johns Hopkins after Janine Tucker retired and was embracing a new opportunity at The St. James, a high-performance training center in Virginia.

Carr spoke highly of the new job in her usual gentle voice — optimistic and grateful, as those closest to her will tell you is her baseline. Still, she didn’t think she was done coaching at the Division I level.

“I knew if an opportunity came up in the coaching world and I felt strongly about it, I wanted to be in a position to take the next step,” Carr said.

That opportunity arose in early July, when Sonia LaMonica announced that she was leaving Towson for Virginia after a 13-year tenure that included four CAA titles. Carr, a Maryland native, knew all about the Tigers.

“I think Towson is a sleeping giant,” Carr said. “It’s an incredible university that has everything you would need, from facilities and support, a great reputation and tradition. It’s in the Mecca of lacrosse. We’re right there.”

Towson has been there — as in, the NCAA tournament — though the program’s last conference crown came in 2016. Carr could have opted to go to a less-established or even first-year program. However, she liked the foundation and challenge of returning a program to glory.

“There’s history in being able to compete with the best teams,” Carr said. “That’s exciting as a competitor myself. It’s only a matter time before we can get over the hump.”

Carr is familiar with plowing through hurdles. She helped North Carolina to its first national title game in 2009 and a return trip to the Final Four the next year, moments she draws inspiration from as she embarks on her first season as a head coach.

“Going through Carolina and being a part of that championship-caliber program and playing on the national team has helped in terms of knowing what it takes to do something so special as a player,” Carr said.

Carr knows coaches also play a special role in a player’s life, something she learned as an athlete and later as an assistant under Tucker, Jenny Levy and former Stanford head coach Amy Bokker. It’s a role Carr doesn’t take lightly.

“Something that has always stuck with me is, ‘Your influence is never neutral. You can either cast a room into darkness or light up the world,’” Carr said. “I really try to embody that every single day. As a coach, you do have the ability to change lives. I take a lot of pride and responsibility in that for my staff and the current team and the future.”

It’s why relationship-building will be part of the foundation of the Carr era at Towson. One of her first orders of business, before she was announced publicly as head coach, was to hop on a call with her new players.

“I shared a l little bit about what my values are and that it’s a journey that we are going to embark on together,” Carr said. “Creating relationships is, in large part, why we pick up a stick in the first place. You are able to create these amazing friendships.”

Carr and the Tigers stayed in touch over the next several weeks until they hit the field for the first fall practice on August 28. Then, it was game on. Offensively, the Tigers return their two leaders in points and draws from last season in Milana Zizakovic (41 G, 15 A, 57 DC) and Lindsay Marshall (45 G, 8 A, 72 DC). Both have impressed this fall.

“Milana is naturally a great lacrosse player,” Carr said. “She’s played box. She’s played in Sixes. She’s had such an incredible dynamic to her game and is willing to do whatever to help the team be the best. She’s an awesome leader in that regard.”

Marshall has a similar mindset — a film-watcher willing to put in the work when no one is watching (though Carr has noticed).

“She’s another one who, like [Milana], comes into the office and watches film or wants to get extra work in, doing whatever it takes to help better her game,” Carr said. “That culture of wanting to put in the work to be the best you can be is going to help the team’s success.”

The Tigers lose do-it-all midfielder Blair Pearre (43 G, 8 A, 51 DC, 17 CT) and starting defender Olivia Malamphy (25 CT, 23 GB), but Carr is confident in the defensive unit with veterans including Blair Goodrich (31 CT, 34 GB), Shannon Sullivan (16 CT) and goalie Jo Torres (.435 SV%) back.

“[Goodrich is] like a dynamite on the field,” Carr said.

Freshmen, too, may also work their way into the lineup — like most coaches will tell you, much of it is up for grabs at this point. What isn’t? Two fundamentals under Coach Carr.

“We want the people that are coming into our family to have a competitive and championship mindset that continue to push the envelope and are just ready to level up,” Carr said. “The other piece is to compete or play with joy. Joy is a catalyst for a lot of things that we do in life. When you can put a smile on your face and have fun in your heart, then whatever you are doing in your life is going to be smoother, more at ease and fun.”

In that regard, Carr is leading by example. It’s not hard to hear her smiling through the phone.


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