Maryland women’s lacrosse defender Sophie Halus scooped up a ground ball less than five minutes into her Terps debut.

The Colorado transfer raced between the two midfield lines, starting a rapid counter attack that produced a free position opportunity for Maryland. Attacker Libby May failed to convert the shot, but Maryland’s coaches saw potential in Halus’ speed spearheading attacks.

The junior has started just once since making her move into an experienced defensive unit. But Halus’ speed allows her to play in a variety of areas on the field to help generate many of the Terps’ attack sets that start from the defensive zone.

“After the [Saint Joseph’s] game, Cathy … told me to run that fast every game,” Halus said. “From now on when I get the ball, I have the green light to go all the way. It’s cool to have that freedom and it’s nice to be able to push fast breaks like that, and know that everyone else on the team has my back and encourages that.”

Maryland primarily plays with six defenders — including Emily Sterling in goal — three midfielders and three attackers. Teams can only have seven players on each side of the restraining line, meaning seven players in each the defensive and offensive zone, not including the goalie.

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Some teams move into the attacking zone through their midfielders. In coach Cathy Reese’s setup, Halus does it herself.

When she pushes up the field, a midfielder holds on the sideline before entering as a substitute. Halus looks to pass to an attacking player after making her way into the attack zone. Once she does, she retreats and an attacker replaces her for the attacking possession.

These fast breaks set up the Terps on offense without burning too much time off the 90-second shot clock. Maryland doesn’t always score when playing with pace, but it makes sure to have the most time possible when attacking.

Attacker Hannah Leubecker sees Halus’ fast play in transition as another dimension to the Terps’ attack. Defender Meghan Ball says she always looks to get the ball to Halus, “one of the fastest people” she’s shared the field with.

Maryland prides itself on its quickness all over the field. Halus joining the Terps is a testament of that.

“It was one game earlier in the season, and she got a ground ball and just beat everybody up the field,” Reese said. “And we were all like, ‘Woah, that was awesome.’ But to see her explosive bursts of speed, and that’s huge for us in transition … that’s an area of strength for our program.”

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Halus’ quickness didn’t come entirely naturally. A multi-sport athlete in high school, she began running track during her senior year. That’s where she honed her ability to race by opposing defenders.

Halus said she learned the technicalities of running from her lone season on the track. She paid more attention to the science behind running, specifically foot placement on the ground in relation to her body. That’s where her speediness took flight.

“It’s about my ankle positioning and how my knees and ankles are under my hips,” Halus said. “Your foot needs to be at a certain degree when it’s hitting the ground … keeping your feet under your hips and everything aligned, which I literally knew nothing about until track.”

Halus will continue to drive from defense to offense and open up attacking options for the Terps. They haven’t had a defender net a goal all season. Halus could be the first.

“They have given me the green light to shoot, but it’s not on the top of my priority list,” Halus said. “Because if I miss, I’m going to be having to run all the way back. So maybe one day I’ll shoot, but for right now I love to just draw the defense and pass it off.”