The Red Dragon family
Cortland develops team chemistry over the long haul
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Chemistry is one of those intangibles in sports that's hard to describe, but important to have.
Countless teams become so close they consider each other family. In most collegiate cases, those kinds of relationships are built during the course of a four-year career. At Cortland State, though, some on the roster and coaching staff have known each other most, if not all, of their lives.
Cortland State's head coach Kathy Taylor began her coaching career at Fayetteville-Manlius High School in upstate New York. Courtney Farrell played for Taylor at that school, and then re-joined her as an assistant on the Cortland coaching staff.
That was three years ago. Courtney is now the associate head coach under Taylor.
Oh, but that's not all. Courtney's sister, Marilyn, is a sophomore attacker for the Red Dragons. The roster also features three players from West Genesee and another three from Baldwinsville - heated high-school rivals of Fayetteville-Manlius.
Players from the different high schools might not have liked each other back then, but they at least knew each other. When Taylor landed the head coaching gig at Cortland State, she wanted to bring as many of her own high-school players and those she'd coached against with her to campus.
"Those three high schools have always battled it out to get to state [championship tournaments], and now they all play on the same side," Taylor said. "They are upstate tough, those 315 area-code kids. They play well together, along with their teammates from around the state and New Jersey."
When the two women speak about each other, there's an unmistakable respect in their voice. Taylor went to Cornell, and it's not a coincidence that Courtney did as well. Taylor is a college head coach, and that's the direction Courtney is taking, too.
"I actually went into coaching in large part due to Kathy," Courtney said. "She's always been a mentor of mine, and she is absolutely incredible at what she does. I wanted to follow in her footsteps, which eventually led me to Cortland. I knew my path had to go through her at some point on the way to being a head coach one day."
As close as they are, Taylor and Courtney not actually related. Courtney and Marilyn are sisters -- there's a six-year difference between them, and they also have two brothers. The experience of being together at Cortland has been a special one for both.
"It's been nothing short of incredible," Courtney said. "We absolutely have a different relationship on the field and off the field. We both try to make time to really have sister time off the field, because we are extremely close. We're friends and we're sisters. On the field, she's really great at taking constructive criticism."
When Courtney says she believes that having Marilyn on her team has brought them closer together, she means it. That's not to say that they've never been competitive with each other.
"Marilyn grew up going to all of my games," Courtney recalled. "I can remember her saying after a couple of my games, 'I'm going to be better than Courtney someday.' So I'm just helping her get there."
There are all kinds of ways in which having one family member as a coach and another as a player might not work out. If there have been any bumps along the way for Courtney and Marilyn, they've worked them out.
"It's been pretty easy," Marilyn began. "I'm a very laid back person, and so I don't make too much commotion on the field to make her upset. I know she's trying to help me, and Coach Taylor, too. I always listen to them and try to take what they say and go with it. I love it. It's not hard at all.
"It's been the best two years I could've hoped for. It's been amazing so far. I can't wait to see what we can accomplish. It's been amazing to have her next to me at the beginning of my college career."