Millville girls lacrosse practice

Millville lacrosse player Corrine Etter, left, talks to her grandmother, longtime coach Claudia McCarthy, during practice Wednesday, March, 27, 2013.

Edward Lea

One of the area's best high school girls lacrosse players calls her coach "Mom-mom" on the field.

That's what comes naturally for Millville star Corrine Etter and her grandmother, Thunderbolts coach Claudia McCarthy.

"I can't really imagine calling her coach or McCarthy or anything other than Mom-mom," Etter said in a phone interview this week. "I even had her in class when I was a sophomore last year, and I couldn't even raise my hand and say, 'Coach McCarthy.' I would just raise my hand and kind of be silent until she came over to me."

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The Thunderbolts are in somewhat of a rebuilding mode this season with just four starters returning from a team that went 14-6. But with McCarthy and Etter leading the way they still should be among the better teams in the Cape-Atlantic League.

Etter, a junior attack, scored 74 goals last season. The previous year, she had a school freshman-record 57 to help the Thunderbolts share the CAL title with Ocean City.

Millville was hit hard by graduation this year, though, losing three first-team Press All-Stars - midfielder Macki Groves, defender Katie Parent and goalie Felicia Branigan. The Thunderbolts suffered another tough loss when junior defender Katherine Handy, one of the few returning starters, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee and had surgery earlier this month.

"It's not going to be a Corrine show," McCarthy said. "We've got to get all her teammates involved, too, in the whole process. I know she's definitely going to score, but because (she is) going to be double- and triple-teamed, you've got to get all the teammates involved."

Etter should get some help from fellow attack Megan Hoffman, a junior who scored 52 goals last season, as well as senior wing Jamie Parent and junior wing Kiara Brown.

The season could hinge, however, on how much McCarthy can get out of her new players and how quickly the team can jell.

That's where Millville has another advantage. McCarthy is in her 15th season with the program and 10th as head coach. She also has coached the school's field hockey team for 42 years, with more than 500 career wins, and she coached the girls basketball team in the 1970s and '80s.

In the course of her career, McCarthy has coached various family members, including her younger sister, Nancy (Stelts) Gibson, and her daughter, Chelsea (McCarthy) Etter, Corrine's mother.

They don't talk about sports over holiday dinners, McCarthy said. But Etter said it helps to have someone so close be her coach.

"I feel more connected with her than I do any of my other coaches," Etter said. "I can talk to her on a more personal level about the game. I feel like she understands me more. She's my greatest role model."

Since Etter's mother has three other children - son Colby, 10, daughter Casey, 9, and daughter Cayle, 1 - McCarthy frequently takes Corrine to club practices and tournaments.

Their bond is so close that McCarthy said next year might be her last in coaching. Etter has received interest from NCAA Division I teams for both lacrosse and field hockey, and McCarthy wants to watch her play in college.

"Everybody says I'm never going to retire," McCarthy said. "It's in my blood. … (But) it's possible. I do want to see her play."

She still has two more lacrosse seasons left before she has to make that decision. While Etter is part of a strong junior class that should make the Thunderbolts a favorite next season, they aren't ruling out contending with conference favorites Mainland Regional and Ocean City this year.

"We (returning starters) are just trying to build ... and help everyone as much as we can to get back to where we were last year or do even better," Etter said.

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