Krull completed the entire exercise science program in two years, while playing both field hockey and lacrosse, completing an internship at Quinnipiac University, and managed to maintain the highest GPA of all the female student-athletes on campus as a senior.
Her work ethic stood out just as much on Stagg Field, as it did in the classroom.
“Her feet never stopped moving,” said Sharpe. “She was that kid, if you’re in a drill and you miss the ball, talk about accountability- I never had to say ‘Kristina, could you try that again?’ she would just go get it, put the ball down, and do it again.”
Meanwhile, after years of developing a new and improved work ethic, Nusbaum was blown away by Krull.
As a freshman, Nusbaum’s first impression of Krull was finding out that the senior had not only completed, but successfully passed, five rigorous fitness tests, in addition to participating in two preseason sessions, all in one day. At the time, players typically completed these tests over the course of a few days, due to their exhaustive nature.
“That’s unreal. I’ve never even heard of anyone [doing that], so that’s when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this girl is a different breed,’” Nusbaum remembered.
“When you talk about work ethic, people say I have a good work ethic, and I’m like, I don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to people like Kristina. I never heard her complain about anything ever, about doing a drill, about running, nothing. Ever.”
It all changed.
“When Coach Sharpe called me over the summer, I can just remember not even registering [it],” Nusbaum said.
After an invisible battle with mental health, Krull died by suicide on July 25, 2018, two years after graduating from Springfield College.
“Every other scenario that came into my mind made more sense than her taking her own life,” said Nusbaum.
Again, she had to channel it, and the only way she knew how was through field hockey.
“I mean, that’ll drive you, I can tell you that,” Nusbaum said. “The hardest working, most resilient person you’ve ever met just couldn’t do it anymore. Like, s---! How do you even make sense of that? You can’t.”
For Nusbaum, it means you’ve got to work harder.
It means there are no excuses.
People are fighting these battles you don’t even know about. There’s no room to complain about a fitness test. You’ve got an injury? That sucks. You’ve got to go into AT? That’s fine. Do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to limp around the field?
Do what you’ve got to do. Keep going.
“You think you have motivation before, and then something devastating like that happens and it almost turns it on its head, because you’ve got to work harder- for her, for what she represented, for everyone that was impacted,” she said.
In her final season for Springfield, Nusbaum was determined to work harder. She had one focus.
Playing for those who can’t.
She played for Krull. The hardest worker she had ever met.
Even Sharpe didn’t anticipate the degree to which the loss of Krull would impact Nusbaum’s play.
Going into the season, Sharpe had told the assistants she wanted Nusbaum to be more offensive.
However, Nusbaum hadn’t felt entirely effective in the upper center midfield position, so Sharpe moved her back to the right side.
“I just wanted her to score,” said Sharpe. “In my mind, I’m thinking she should be higher to score, never realizing that [idea of] ‘well if I can’t score, I’m going to make sure that everybody else does.’”
Nusbaum earned the same number of assists in a single season as she had in her first three seasons combined.
At 23 assists, most would think she’s a center midfielder. That’s where there are the most options. But she wasn’t.
She was on the side of the field.
“To get that many from that position has to be unheard of,” Sharpe stated. “She just put a whole new twist on what it means to be a midfielder.”
Nusbaum couldn’t have done it alone.
“I’ll bring the ball up, but people have to put it in, or else my assists mean nothing,” she explained. “Throughout my four years, I had to have people put it in the net, and I’ve had teammates that can do that, so I’ve been fortunate in that way.”
For Sharpe, there was one key aspect of Nusbaum’s play that made her so effective.
“She’s just so different. The intensity makes all the difference,” explained Sharpe. “She can dribble well, she can pass well, she can shoot, but then she does it with such intensity that it’s harder and it’s faster than her opponents.”
Nusbaum gained a painful drive when she lost Katonka. And she’s been honing it for years.
That’s the difference. That’s her edge.
It was this passion that helped fuel Nusbaum to break the first two records of the season.
Originally, Nusbaum didn’t know if she would even play on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 against Husson.
Earlier in the week, her grandmother had died.
After missing practice that Friday to attend the wake with her family, her dad told her to go be with her team on Saturday.
Nusbaum was going to be on Stagg Field. This time, playing for her grandmother.
“I knew where I wanted to be during that time, and field hockey gets me through things. It always has, and in a way, it always will,” said Nusbaum. “I didn’t even know I was anywhere near a record. I just didn’t want to miss a game.”
After the 10-3 win, Sharpe called for someone to grab the game ball. Nusbaum knew she must have wanted to write something on it, but she didn’t know who it was for. She guessed junior Taylor Conley had broken a record.
She was wrong.
Nusbaum heard her own name announced.
“I think I just put my hands on my knees, because I was like, ‘I can’t even believe the timing of this,’” she said. “It was perfect. There’s no other way to describe it.”
On Friday, Oct. 5, the team dedicated its game against Smith College to “No. 5” and played for Krull. While the seniors were the only players who had played with her, the entire team knew about her legacy and wanted to honor it.
Between tears in the locker room before the game, to a moment of silence before the national anthem, emotions got the best of the players. The team was unable to defeat Smith, and lost 5-0.
“I’ve never felt more devastated than after that game,” said Nusbaum. “I can’t even imagine how the majority of our team felt, because a lot of people didn’t know her. So to come in, and play a game, and have that kind of emotion, it was a lot.”
Despite not getting the win, the team did represent something much bigger than themselves: suicide awareness.
“It should never be the answer, but for some people, that’s what it is. It’s a mental disease and people don’t get that,” she said.
But Nusbaum and the entire team had the opportunity to play Smith again. They could change their story against the Pioneers when it mattered most -- in the NEWMAC Tournament Semifinals, hosted on Stagg Field.
After pulling everyone together in the locker room, the Pride stepped onto the field with an entirely different mindset.
They were determined. They were prepared. They were ready.
This was it.
Yet, after two overtime periods, Smith scored and ended Springfield’s season.
Everyone was devastated, especially the senior class, yet their heads were held high. They never stopped working hard, just like Krull.
After the loss, Sharpe sent Nusbaum a text.
“You are selfless, competitive, and the hardest damn worker I know,” it read. “I always said Kristina was the ‘Hardest worker in the room’ but you now own that title.”
It was clear.
“I’m like wow - that’s the first time I’ve ever had anybody that I would say, ‘Yup, that’s how hard Kristina worked.’ That was the best example, by watching Nuzzy play.”
But, Nusbaum took it one step further.
After being selected to represent Springfield College in the NFHCA Division III Senior Game, instead of wearing her No. 19 jersey, Nusbaum decided to wear No. 5 for Krull.