Maryland softball’s new head coach stood in front of a swarm of media, players and other Terp coaches, a reception that signified Lauren Karn’s jump from the Horizon League to one of the premier conferences in the country.

But before she could introduce herself, she had to make a preemptive apology for two people confused by the day’s events.

“I apologize if we have a couple of meltdowns over here; I might have to grab a kid,” Karn said of her two young children. “To my kids Mickey and Sophie, you guys have no idea what’s going on right now, but I do hope that I make you proud as a mom, and I can’t wait to see you guys just continuing to wear all of our red and black and supporting our softball program.”

It was not the only time in her opening press conference when Karn touched on family. Maryland’s newest head coach emphasized the importance of an open-minded culture, which was not always the case in her coaching career. She hopes her experience turning around a program at Oakland University in Michigan can help her bring success to College Park.

“I felt like early on I needed to be a specific way and say certain things and run on a script, because that’s just what you expect from a head coach,” Karn said. “But I quickly learned that that was not the best way to connect with my student athletes and make them feel comfortable.”

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After spending six years as the head coach at Oakland, Karn leapt at the chance to take on her first Power Five head coaching job.

Karn made her mark in her short time with the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland won consecutive regular season conference titles under her guidance and qualified for the 2022 NCAA tournament.

Under Karn, Oakland also notched multiple big wins against Power Five opponents, including victories over Michigan State and Clemson.

Still, the jump from the Horizon League to the Big Ten is monumental. The Golden Grizzlies lost two games to Michigan by a combined score of 22-0 last season, but Maryland’s talent will be an upgrade from what Karn had at Oakland.

“I think the most exciting thing outside of the softball piece is just working with really high level student athletes,” Karn said.

Some of those players were in attendance on Tuesday with senior Jaeda McFarland and sophomore Sammi Woods in the crowd. Both are likely key to Karn’s plans, as Woods emerged as one of the team’s best freshman last season, while McFarland was named a second-team All-Big Ten honoree.

[Maryland softball hires Lauren Karn as new coach after Mark Montgomery’s resignation]

The Terps’ coaching transition coincides with the team’s roster turnover. Maryland lost 56 percent of its RBIs from last season, impacted largely by star sophomore Amelia Lech’s transfer to Auburn. Karn inherits an extremely young roster and figures to heavily rely on current Terps’ internal development.

“The production might look a little bit different, I don’t think anyone can directly replace a player when they leave a program,” Karn said. “But I think the people on our team who had success last year are going to just have more success this year.”

Last season, Maryland notched its best record since 2011 and qualified for a postseason tournament for the first time since 2012. The Terps’ finish seemed to promise an upward trajectory under former coach Mark Montgomery, but that progress was quickly halted when he unexpectedly resigned in July

Karn will aim to build on the Terps’ positive momentum, but she’ll need to do what her predecessor couldn’t if she wants Maryland to break through in the Big Ten. That process will start with winning series against the conference’s premier opponents and culminate in securing the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.