Maryland's Erica Evans wins a draw over Northwestern's Kim Harker during last weekend's Big Ten championship game in Baltimore. (Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post)

Erica Evans initially didn’t see much reason to worry. During an autumn scrimmage in 2017, she felt a pop in her right knee after dodging a defender. It didn’t hurt that bad, at least not the way you’d expect for a season-ending injury that changed the course of her college career.

Maybe she had just hyperextended her knee, Evans thought. The MRI exam a few days later, though, said otherwise. Evans had torn her ACL, and that scrimmage at Loyola, the school in Baltimore just a short drive from where Evans now plays, ended her senior season at Canisius College before it began. Evans knew she could redshirt, so another year of college lacrosse awaited, just after a long recovery.

Less than a month later, her coach, Scott Teeter, took over as coach at Louisville, and the process that would land Evans in College Park began. She could have finished her eligibility at Canisius, but Evans would soon earn her degree and the class she had arrived with would be moving on.

Maryland Coach Cathy Reese knew of Evans and her skill set. Evans, a Peterborough, Ontario native, played on Canada’s national team against a handful of Maryland players representing the United States. They knew how difficult it was to defend her.

“We’ve known about her and seen her play for years,” Reese said. “It was kind of like: 'Whoa! We’ve got the opportunity here to bring in someone who we know can be a difference-maker for our program for a fifth-year.’ We just jumped on it when the opportunity was there.”

Even with the injury and the adjustment that comes with joining a new program, the expectation was that the midfielder would contribute in her only season as part of the Maryland powerhouse. As the Terps (18-1) head into the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, Evans’s 48 goals rank second on the Terps behind senior captain Jen Giles. Now, in the most important part of the year — with Maryland hosting Stony Brook (16-4) in the second round of the NCAA tournament at noon Sunday — Evans is just getting better.

“I’m getting comfortable and more confident with myself getting back from my injury and getting accustomed to the girls and them getting accustomed to me, too,” Evans said. “It does take time. And obviously it’s better now than too late.”

Reese described Evans as an all-around player, someone who can score and defend. She excels in transition, racing down the field with a quickness few can match. That speed, Evans said, might come from her years of playing hockey because “you use so many different muscles” in that sport. She played hockey until she graduated high school, and for about six years Evans played on a boys’ team because the girls’ team was disbanded when only three players showed up for tryouts.

Reese knew all about Evans as a player, and as soon as they met during the player’s visit last spring, the Maryland coach wanted Evans on her team. She appreciated her energy, and the two clicked.

“You need to come here,” Reese said she thought after meeting with Evans. “You’re a Terp. You need to play at Maryland. … Whatever happens this season, I want you to be a part of it.”

Dana Dobbie, an assistant at Loyola and a former Terp, knew Evans well because both had played for Canada. Reese coached Dobbie at Maryland, and they’ve stayed close. Dobbie told Reese she’d love Evans. By then, Evans had already visited, so Reese didn’t need any more assurance.

The transition hasn’t been hard, Evans said. She lives with teammate Meghan Siverson, who transferred from Louisville before last season, so that helps. Plus, this senior-laden team has been “so genuine and so kind,” Evans said, making it “really easy to fit in that way.”

She’s still had to go through a bit of a freshman-like adjustment phase, one that comes with living in a new place, starting graduate school and joining a team with a different style. And all that came on top of recovering from her knee injury.

At Canisius, Evans was a do-it-all player, and in her three seasons she became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 186 goals. Now she’s surrounded by all-Americans, another adjustment. But in recent weeks, Evans has shined, averaging 4.2 goals in the past five games — a product of how that acclimation process finally feels like part of the past.

“We're down to the wire right now,” Reese said. “We've seen her really step up big.”

The way Maryland dominates this sport is a change for Evans, too. Canisius usually earned a tournament berth by way of winning its conference. In Evans’s four years at the school, Canisius had just one NCAA tournament win, which came during her freshman season. Canisius had a winning record each year but nothing as impressive as some of the streaks and records the Terps have accumulated.

At Maryland, the standard is to compete for the national title. But that’s what made the program attractive to Evans. And in three weeks, she could become a key reason the Terps make it that far yet again.