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FEATURE: Senior Retires, Moves on to Coaching Role

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By Mike Esse, Special to from the College of Communications
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If you were to turn back the clocks five years, Kristin Hartmann would be an incoming freshman with high aspirations to become a key contributor to a team coming off its 10th-straight Big Ten women's soccer title. In 2012, Hartmann now assumes a role never before seen for the Penn State women's soccer program, which has since extended its conference title streak to 15.

8250489.jpegAfter being injury-plagued during the beginning of her redshirt senior season, the Katy, Texas, native has transitioned from logging minutes as a goalkeeper to being a player-coach under head coach Erica Walsh. The idea of creating this new position for Hartmann was in the works during the midway point of the 2012 campaign and was made official in a post-game ceremony against Indiana earlier this season.

"The original plan was to tell the team after the game and then coach said that they changed it to a ceremony," said Hartmann, a fourth generation Penn Stater.

In the mind of Walsh, it was easy to decide to give Hartmann a ceremony to officially retire her as a player on Oct. 7, simply because Hartmann has served as the glue of the No. 4 ranked team.

"She deserves as much recognition as any other player in this program," said Walsh. "Everyone has been part of a team that has glue. If you have been on a good team, there is a piece of it that you cannot replace and that is Kristin Hartmann for us."

Almost two weeks after the decision was made official, Hartmann's newfound role is continuing to evolve as the Nittany Lions begin the postseason. 

"My job is to help out everyone at anything," said Hartmann. "I am good at helping my teammates study to make them less stressful. It is just the small things and I do it very easily."

Hartmann has focused her time on the goalkeepers, a group she has grown very close with over the past few years. Graduate student goalkeeper Erin McNulty, who has split time as the starter this year, stressed the importance of Hartmann as the season nears the post-season.

"I strive to be like her off the field and on the field and having her there makes we want to work even harder," said McNulty, a national title winner during her time at Florida State. "As a group of goalkeepers she makes us work harder and if one of us has a bad day she lightens the mood and corrects our mistakes."

Walsh has realized over the past few weeks that the evolution of this new position is something that she never knew her team was missing. 

"You don't know what you need until you have it and I didn't know what I was missing out on," said Walsh. "There has been a couple things each week that she brings to our attention that we wouldn't have known otherwise."

Nittany Lion coaches and players have enjoyed the positive effects of Hartmann's ability to connect with her teammates. Nobody, however, has enjoyed it more than Hartmann herself.

"Everybody's goal when they come here is to play," Hartmann said.  "I have had a different experience and now that I have switched from that role it is more fun. I don't stress about injuries or anything, I can enjoy it, which is what you are supposed to do. I help everyone else, which is what I enjoy doing."

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