Vaughn is making hard line pay dividends at Liberty

April 04, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

Courtney's In Charge.

No, it's not a new television show or movie.

It is a fact of life at Liberty High School, where Courtney Vaughn coaches the field hockey and girls lacrosse teams with an iron hand.

"She runs the show," said former Liberty football coach John Magee who still teaches at the school. "There is no middle ground. You either do it her way or hit the highway and the kids accept it."

Vaughn's way is practices on Saturdays, rigid team rules, tough and intense workouts, no favorites and a strong desire to win and make her players better.

The result has been two trips to the state Class 2A field hockey tournament for the Lions, and a lacrosse program that has improved so much in six years that Vaughn could bring a Class 1A-2A championship to the school for the first time this season.

Liberty never has made it to the state tournament in the six years it has fielded a girls lacrosse team.

But Vaughn steadily has built a strong squad that has dominated Carroll County with four straight championships and is now ready to challenge the likes of perennial Howard County power Mount Hebron.

It was Mount Hebron that handed the Lions their only loss last season, ending a 13-0 Liberty run in the 1A-2A regional finals.

Liberty is ranked No. 7 this week in the Baltimore metro area, rubbing shoulders with traditional private school powers such as Roland Park, Friends and Mount de Sales and sharing the same neighborhood with always-strong public schools Severna Park, Mount Hebron and Loch Raven.

It's a lofty honor for Vaughn and her players but one that will be appreciated even more if the Lions can produce a state title.

If they don't win it all this season, it won't be from a lack of drive on Vaughn's part.

"Courtney is the kind of person who, if she wants something, will go out after it and work hard to get it," said her high school field hockey coach Sue Hooper, who coached Vaughn at Westminster and is still there. "She was not a natural athlete at field hockey and had to work hard for everything she got. I enjoyed coaching her because of her enthusiasm."

Vaughn said: "I think Hooper kept me on the team just because I worked my butt off. I only played half the games my junior year but started as a senior."

It was those days on the Westminster field hockey team that most likely resulted in Vaughn's being a demanding coach, said Hooper.

"She had to work hard to get what she wanted, so she expects her players to work as hard as she did," said Hooper.

Vaughn constantly drives her lacrosse players to be better no matter how much they are winning or losing by, and loves to develop young players.

"She can take unskilled players, and if they have any kind of athletic ability, she'll win with them," said Magee. "She's a good teacher of the game and good teachers are good coaches."

This season, Vaughn said she had to make a tough position switch of a star offensive player on the team, junior Debbi Bourke, but Vaughn pulled it off without losing Bourke as a player.

"I had to move Debbi from attack wing to defense wing," she said. "Debbi was upset at first, but I explained to her that she was still one of my top 12 players and I still expected her to score some goals. It was a move strictly to make us a better team. Debbi has the ability to help us on defense as well as offense."

Vaughn said she not only tries to think about keeping her starters happy but likes to include the reserves in everything the team does.

"Coaching is more than just putting your 12 best players out there on the field," she said. "I guess I'm able to understand that because I'm still on the other end as a player these days [Baltimore Field Hockey team]. I feel I'm sensitive to my players' needs."

One time Vaughn is sensitive to a player is when it comes time to cut her from the squad.

"I rarely ever cut a kid," she said, "because they get upset and I just decide to keep them on the team with the understanding they won't get to play much, if at all."

Vaughn played field hockey and lacrosse at Salisbury State after playing just field hockey at Westminster. The Owls didn't have lacrosse when Vaughn was in school.

Salisbury State was ranked seventh in the nation in field hockey in Vaughn's freshman year. She was a sweeper in college field hockey after playing halfback at Westminster.

"I ran on my own and worked on my stickwork a lot so I could make it in college," said the coach.

There's that word work again. It never will go away as long as Vaughn is around.

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