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  • 1. The MCCORD ACCORD Taylor McCord was Jacksonville’s top scorer in 2013 after transferring from Florida to play for her parents, Dolphins coach Mindy McCord and assistant Paul McCord. A Dolphin Tale W “I was looking for a change leaving Florida, and I found the bond between the players and coaches at JU was unreal. Everywhere else I visited, there was nothing like it.” ©jacksonville — Taylor McCord 48 Lacrosse Magazine >> November 2013 A Publication of US Lacrosse A Publication of US Lacrosse Eighty-five miles from Gainesville, Florida’s other women’s lacrosse startup from 2010 has made its own mark By Laurel Pfahler While the Florida women’s lacrosse team garnered national attention with a final four appearance in just its third season in 2012, another program just as young quietly made significant strides 85 miles up the road. Jacksonville went Division I in 2010, the same year the Gators did. By 2011, the Dolphins were the highest-scoring team in the country in terms of goals per game, a distinction they have owned for three straight years. After an 8-11 inaugural campaign, Jacksonville has gone 42-15 over the past three seasons, including an NCAA tournament appearance last spring, when the Dolphins made their Atlantic Sun Conference debut and won the title with their first full senior class. Though Jacksonville’s rapid development from startup to NCAA tournament contender doesn’t quite match Florida’s ascent to a No. 1 national ranking, two NCAA quarterfinal appearances and one semifinal trip, the Dolphins have made their own splash under less advantageous circumstances. “We were starting under a little different premise of where our program was building from,” said Jacksonville coach Mindy McCord, who was hired in April 2008. “We also were kind of surprised with how successful we’ve become in such a short time.” McCord said she has never felt like her small private-school program was inferior to its big sister in Gainesville, because Florida hired Mandee O’Leary a November 2013 >> Lacrosse Magazine 49
  • 2. year earlier than Jacksonville brought her in. The Gators had a leg up in recruiting. Florida also had resources, McCord said, as a “mega-athletics school” with a “facility better than some NFL teams.” “There was more of the expectation that’s where they would be because of the commitment their school was putting into it,” she said. While Florida snagged blue-chip recruits, the Dolphins carved out their niche by tapping talent in non-traditional lacrosse regions and from less established high school and club programs. Following a third-place finish in the National Lacrosse Conference in 2010 with a roster of 21 freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors, McCord roped in her husband, Paul McCord, as her assistant. She hoped his expertise in speed training and systems would jumpstart the program. The McCords moved to Florida in 2003 when Paul, a former NFL special teams and strength and conditioning coach with the Baltimore Ravens, got a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. When his stint with the Jaguars ended, they decided to stay in Florida, where Paul could work in the strength and conditioning field and where Mindy could focus on lacrosse development through their LaxManiax club program. “What he didn’t know was I was going to bring him along with me in the journey,” Mindy McCord said at the 2009 US Lacrosse National Convention. The couple devised a marketing plan to pitch men’s and women’s lacrosse to colleges in the Southeast. Jacksonville added both. “JU turned it around in three months,” Paul McCord said at the convention. “JU looked at it as, ‘This can help [differentiate] us from other small schools in the Southeast. We’re the lacrosse school. We had it first.’” Using a run-and-gun style, Jacksonville found quick results. The Dolphins opened the 2011 season with a surprise win over Cincinnati, and five days later — after an 18-9 loss to Florida — they stunned Denver, which was ranked No. 20 at the time. Jacksonville went on to a 14-5 finish, including a close loss to No. 11 Vanderbilt, and second place in the NLC. “We had a lot of southern girls who could run up and down the field and who were competitors, and we knew we couldn’t go head-to-head with all these other teams that have been around longer than we have, playing a traditional style,” Paul McCord said. “The girls bought into the system. They enjoy it.” Jacksonville built on that success, going 15-4 in 2012 and winning the NLC championship but failing to claim an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. And then last season, Jacksonville finished 13-6, averaged 15.86 goals per game, limited opponents to 8.37 goals per game and racked up a Division I-best 256 caused turnovers. All six losses were to NCAA tournament teams, including Denver in the first round. Mindy McCord was the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year. One key factor in 2013 was the addition of the McCords’ daughter, Taylor, who transferred from Florida as a sophomore and became the team’s top scorer with 32 goals and 28 assists. Over the past few years, recruiting has picked up, as Jacksonville became more selective and found its beachside location made it easier to entice players. The roster now features a broader geographic spread. An 11-member recruiting class for 2013-14 includes two players each from Long Island, New Jersey and the Southeast, four from Maryland and one from Pittsburgh. “It was creating a culture of players that wanted to stay and be committed to building this program to become a top20 program,” Mindy McCord said, “and finding recruits that saw that vision.” Senior midfielder Chelsea Watts said her class of 14 recruits, who were freshmen during the first winning season, were motivated by that vision.   “We were so amped and excited about the season,” Watts said. “I came into JU knowing it was a starter program, and I told coach Mindy I wanted to make this a top-20 program.” The Dolphins graduated their first full senior class last year (12 who stayed), including top scorer Amanda Hurley and goalkeeper Karli Tobin. Jacksonville now will lean on a group of eight new seniors, such as Morgan Derner (34 goals, eight assists) and Brit Orashen (31 goals, nine assists). “We want to build on that momentum this year with a strong senior group that was a very talented group coming into year two,” Mindy McCord said. “It was great to see their talent push us to the next level in year two and show our team they could compete with other good programs. Now, those kids are leading our team.” “We are hoping to contend for our conference championship and be competitive in the NCAAs,” she added. “And to keep our scoring title — that would just be icing on the cake.” LM ’Til Lax Do Us Part Kelly Amonte and Scott Hiller Northwestern Scott, a former men’s assistant at Harvard and Boston Cannons head coach, has been a volunteer assistant for the Wildcats since their revival in 2002. Deanna and K.C. Knobloch Moorestown (N.J.) High Deanna has more wins 50 Lacrosse Magazine >> November 2013 (450) than any other coach in New Jersey girls’ lacrosse history and has the Quakers back in dynasty mode (51-0 over the last two seasons). They also co-direct South Jersey Select, a club program. Sonia and Mike LaMonica Towson The former Terps, whose playing careers coincided at Maryland, have taken the Tigers to three straight NCAA tournaments. Mike also was an assistant coach for Australia at the World Cup. (Sonia played.) Mandee and Kevin O’Leary Cathy and Brian Reese Kevin, the all-time saves leader at Maryland and former Terps assistant, could be seen patrolling the sidelines with Mandee during Florida’s inaugural season in 2010. He’s also a veteran NCAA men’s lacrosse official. While also serving as general manager of the MLL’s Denver Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks, Brian had a three-year stint as Cathy’s volunteer assistant with the Terps, helping them to the NCAA championship in 2010. Florida Maryland Allison and John Pfeffer Janine and John Tucker Neither played lacrosse, but Allison, the head coach, and John, her assistant, have become Long Island icons and in May won their 300th game together. Where hasn’t John Tucker coached? The current Boston Cannons skipper was Janine’s volunteer assistant for two seasons at Homewood. Bay Shore (N.Y.) High Johns Hopkins A Publication of US Lacrosse ©John Strohsacker For these lacrosse couples, the honey-do list doesn’t end at home. A look at some notable wife-husband coaching tandems: