After her very first college visit, Lauren Horner was pretty sure she didn't need to take any more. After visiting Monmouth University in New Jersey last winter, Horner, who was a Northwestern High School junior at the time, was nearly positive she had found the right school.

But she did her due diligence, visiting places like Providence, Qunnipiac and Sacred Heart just to make sure.

Those visits only confirmed her original feelings.

"I kind of decided when I went to junior day back in February," Horner said Thursday at a letter of intent signing ceremony. "That was when I kind of knew, but I had to look at all the other schools, keep my options open. I had an open mind, but I still was always comparing them to Monmouth."

A four-year starter on Northwestern's field hockey team, Horner could become an impact player early in her college career. She was one of Northwestern's leading scorers each of the past four years. But her value to the team goes far beyond the goals she scored.

She earned two All Colonial League First Team selections and one Second Team nod in high school.

"She's been a leader on and off the field since the moment she stepped on as a freshman," said Northwestern head coach Jess Becker. "She has a wonderful work ethic. She's a team player. She has a great attitude. They're all attributes that make her a wonderful young woman, not just a good student athlete. I think those things will make her just as successful in college as she was in high school."

Over the past four years Horner and her teammates have helped Northwestern's field hockey team return to district playoffs and become a top-tier team in the Colonial League, where the Tigers came just one win from earning a league playoff spot last fall.

"I think Lauren and her class have had a huge impact," said Becker. "They've been leaders for quite a while. They didn't have to be seniors to become leaders. It will be hard losing them next year. They've left behind a legacy and some traditions that the underclassmen want to uphold."

Helping to return the program to prominence is something Horner takes great pride in.

"We played some of the top teams and we were competitive with them," she said. "We kind of proved that we were up there with the best teams. I think we did a good job of stepping up and bringing back the tradition of Northwestern field hockey."

Horner played midfield in high school. The Monmouth coaches plan to use her either in the midfield or backfield. And she could see some playing time as soon this fall."

"It will definitely be an adjustment," Horner said. "But I think if I practice hard I could get some playing time my freshman year. I've talked to the coach about that. I don't know about starting yet. We'll have to see once I'm there, so where they need players."

Monmouth is a Division I school in field hockey. It competes in the Northeast Conference. This past season it had a 15-6 record and came within one game of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, falling to Rider, 2-1, in the conference championship game.