ROCK ISLAND — For someone who stands under 5-feet tall, Hilary Kargl has been a huge influence on the success of the Augustana women's lacrosse team.
Even with such a diminutive stature, she stands tall in a number of aspects for the Vikings, who are in regional semifinal action in the NCAA Div. III National Tournament on Saturday in Maryland against defending national champ Salisbury.
Standing just 4-foot, 11-inches tall, Kargl is recognized first for her lack of height. But there are other numbers that stand out for the Viking junior. This season, she ranks second in the country in points scored with 128 — 62 goals and 66 assists. Her assists rank her seventh in the country.
"To be more well-rounded is something I can hang my hat on this season," said Kargl.
Which is different for her. As a freshman, she gained national acclaim for being a prolific scorer when she found the net a whopping 97 times on an efficient 178 shots. During that season, she set a national record of 14 goals in a single game.
"I was in the right spot at the right time. I would just close my eyes and shoot," she said with a knowing laugh in describing her freshman season. "It was very fun. I never tried to score 10 or 14 goals in a game. If it happened, it happened."
And it happened quite a bit for the Louisville, Ky., resident. She also scored a season-high eight goals in Saturday's tourney-opening 22-14 victory over Adrian.
However, those incredible numbers only tell part of her tale. Her first time away from home was a big part of another story playing out off the field for Kargl. Within a five-month period, both of her grandparents on her mother's side passed away. Two trips back home were tough on her. Not making it easier were "some teachers who weren't very understanding," she said. "I just wanted to be home with my family."
Thinking that was her path, she enrolled at the University of Kentucky to start her sophomore year, leaving behind a record-setting lacrosse season at Augie.
"Once I got there (at Kentucky), I missed lacrosse too much, and I missed the people here," said Kargl.
At the end of one semester, she realized that Augie was where she wanted to be and transferred back. But because of Augie's academic calendar being on trimesters, she was not allowed to compete until spring term, rejoining the team well into the season at spring break.
"At that point, the team had already been together for six months, practicing," said Augie coach Sara Tisdale of Kargl's slow comeback. "It took a while for her to get back into team mode and wasn't able to contribute the way she used to. She went into last summer wanting to be a cornerstone of the offense, and it shows with how much work she put in."
Kargl has a difficult time explaining the difference in herself or her game. But there has been a transformation that has allowed her to become a much more well-rounded player, as the stats show.
"I'm just seeing the field a lot better, I think," said Kargl. "I know where my teammates want to go when they get the ball and when I see them head that way, I get the ball to them. … It just kind of happened. It wasn't planned. Just like freshman year, my scoring wasn't planned either. It just happened."
But it didn't happen overnight. After scoring those 97 goals and scoring 120 points as a freshman, she was limited to only 35 goals and 31 assists for 66 points in her shortened sophomore season.
"It took her a long time to get back in lacrosse mode," said Tisdale. "To see the transformation she has made as an individual and as a teammate and as a player has been tremendous. Freshman year she had all sorts of scoring records. And if you look at her this year and what is driving her is an assists mentality."
Actually, what is driving her is the desire to succeed and the willingness to do whatever she can to help her team in showing her more balanced offensive skills. And to have some fun when the ball is in her possession.
"I know that when I have the ball, the defense doesn't know if I'm going to pass or if I'm going to shoot," said Kargl with a wry smile. "I don't even know if I'm going to pass or if I'm going to shoot. It certainly gives me more options."
Today is Tuesday, Oct. 21, the 294th day of 2014. There are 71 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The weather is discouraging for our great Democratic rally tomorrow, but never mind that. Let our Rock Island people show they can make a big procession themselves, rain or shine. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Apparatus arrived for drilling an artesian well on the premises of George Warner's Atlantic Brewery. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The German army continued its attacks on the allies line near the Belgian coast. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Zachert northwest of Buffalo Prairie, burned to the ground. 1964 -- 50 years ago: WVIK-FM, noncommercial educational radio station at Augustana College, will return to the air tomorrow. The station operates at a power of 10 watts at 90.9 megacycles on the frequency modulation band. The station is operated with a staff of 92 students. 1989 -- 25 years ago: An avenue of lights, 13 Christmas trees strung with more than 44,000 sparkling lights, will expand the Festival of Trees beyond the walls of RiverCenter in downtown Davenport in mid-November.