WEST WINDSOR: Pirates coach is home

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
Laura McCormick is back.
In some ways, it felt like the new West Windsor-Plainsboro South field hockey coach never left. After graduating in 2011, the WW-P South alumna was around to see her twin sisters play for the Pirates.
“Time flew,” McCormick said. “I left and came right back.”
McCormick steps in for Christine Cabarle, who coached her and mentored her and helped foster her love of the game and her appreciation for the Pirates program.
“This program has been so important to me ever since I started,” McCormick said. “Having been coached by Cabarle, she made it home. Coming back, I wanted to come after her.
“Her and I are very close and she wasn’t just my coach, she became my role model,” she said. “She’s like family to me. We stayed in contact. You can’t balance team and baby and the timing worked out perfectly.”
With Cabarle stepping down to focus on her family and McCormick graduating this year from Rider University, McCormick was able to step in and coach like she’d always hoped.
“Playing in high school, I knew I never wanted to stop playing field hockey,” McCormick said. “After college, the only way to stay involved was coaching. Coming home to West Windsor is the best option. I know the traditions and how it works and what those girls expect. It was an easy slide into the program.”
Even when she wasn’t playing over the last four years for the Pirates, she followed them through her sisters and by going to school nearby.
“I was in season too, but when I had an off day, I was probably at South practice,” McCormick said. “My sisters were there three years after I left. Coach gave me a chance to talk to the team. I definitely stayed close.”
Coming back to coach the program is a dream fit for McCormick, who would like to help keep the program pushing forward, and she is excited for the chance to continue building on Cabarle’s strengths.
“I just the think the passion that Cabarle put in the program,” McCormick said. “You could tell she loved the girls and loved not just field hockey but wanted to make them better people. Everyone wanted to come back. It’s like a huge family.”
McCormick will be helped by assistants Katie Lipsit, a graduate of Montclair State and Rancocas Valley, and freshman coach Sarah Hellman.
“With a whole new coaching staff, I think we’ll be able to try a bunch of new things,” McCormick said, “And hopefully we can build in new strategies but definitely use what worked when she was there.
“Having a Division I coach coaching alongside with a Division III coach, it helps so much,” she added. “You have two different views and two different styles we’re trying to combine. The commitment is our main goal, trying to get everyone committed to the program. We’re trying to get them to realize we’re 110 percent into it, and they better be also.”
The Pirates are already off to a promising start with enough to field a freshman team. It’s a good sign for the future.
“We haven’t had a freshman team in about eight years,” McCormick said. “We have our first one and that’s exciting. It’s been quiet. We’ve only carried two teams for all those years.
“It makes sense. Cabarle had been here seven years. She built the program up and now it’s finally coming around. She left me in good hands.”
McCormick understands the expectations and the challenges for the Pirates after going there four years ago. The field hockey scene is not that different from her days, but there are some changes that she sees that will benefit the Pirates.
“We definitely have more turf time,” McCormick said. “We’re not on that grass all the time. We do play teams on grass though so we have to get used to it. Jean Marie (Seal, the WW-P athletics director) has been there a couple years. She’s changing the athletics. She’s so high energy. She wants to help every team.”
McCormick is fresh off playing at Rider, where she played for coaches Lori and Dan Hussong. They welcomed her when she transferred after her freshman year at Sacred Heart. She has taken pointers from them as well that will be useful as she starts her coaching career.
“They helped me so much,” McCormick said. “They asked me to play going into freshman year. I wanted to go away and explore, but I came back. They’re great all-around people. They’re looking to help everyone. They’re also family to me.”
McCormick is hopeful that she will have the opportunity to teach in the district. She graduated with degrees in elementary education and psychology plus a minor in special education. She is currently substituting, and she would like to provide teaching on the field as much as in the classroom.
“I’m just hoping the girls really do buy into the program,” McCormick said. “I want them to say they walked away knowing not just more about field hockey but about being a better person. It’s not just about winning and losing. That’s something passed down from Cabarle and Lori from Rider.”
The Pirates will be trying to compete as best they can for their new coach. McCormick is looking forward to seeing how the team develops over the next several months.
“We open up with Hopewell at home,” she said. “That’s going to be a good ideal game to see where we stand, but it’s early in the season. It’s great practice. Every game will be a competition, it just depends how we execute.
“The key is the seniors are going to step up because with a whole new staff, they’ve been there the past three years and they know how it works. I’m looking for a lot of leadership from those seniors.”
The Pirates will be looking to one of their own to take the lead. McCormick is ready and thrilled to have the chance to return as a coach of a program she holds dear to her heart.
“I’m happy to be back,” she said. “It’s good to be home.” 