It's in her blood

Mary Waller was brought up on field hockey. Now she's giving the next generation of players the benefit of her experience.

Field Hockey

October 29, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,special to the sun

C Milton Wright's Mary Waller felt like a member of the Fallston field hockey family growing up.

When she was in the second grade, Waller was introduced to the sport during a clinic run by Alice Puckett. Waller immediately fell in love with the sport. She also became best friends with Lindsey Puckett, the Fallston coach's daughter.

Through that relationship, a friendship developed between the two families. Alice Puckett gave Waller several Cougars jackets, shorts and kilts and let her take part in team pictures before she reached high school.

Now Waller wears a C.M. Wright uniform. She's a four-year starter who has accomplished just about everything she hoped to, except for a state championship. C.M. Wright has lost in the state semifinals in each of the past two seasons.

"It really drives me," Waller said. "I've wanted to win the state championship ever since I was little, seeing Fallston win it several times. It made me want to win."

No. 8 C.M. Wright (11-2-1) opened its playoff run with a victory over North County on Thursday. The Mustangs entered the Class 4A North region playoffs as the second seed behind No. 9 Dulaney, which they defeated, 3-2, earlier this season.

Waller led the team in scoring as a freshman before playing midfield the past two years. She moved back to forward this season and led the team in scoring in the regular season with nine goals and four assists.

C.M. Wright coach Amy Chmielewski said Waller's versatility is among her strongest assets. She's also fast, passes the ball well and can be counted on in the clutch. In the first three games this season, Waller scored game-tying goals.

She's a leader, too. Waller is one of four captains, and Chmielewski said she regularly encourages her teammates on the field. During games, Chmielewski often will pull Waller over to give instruction to the Mustangs.

"The team's very well-rounded, but I think they look to her for guidance," Chmielewski said. "Any time we take a timeout or at halftime, Mary is very positive. She reinforces the good that we're doing."

Waller has seen a lot of positive results in her time with C.M. Wright. She also witnessed several of the nine state championships Fallston has won under Puckett. Waller knows what it takes to get there and succeed.

"For [state titles], she's been there and done that," Puckett said.

Waller learned the basics of the game from Puckett. There were no youth field hockey programs in the area then and Puckett, who has coached Fallston for 24 years, started a private one.

Waller was among the initial group, which had 23 kids. She was a regular at Puckett's clinics and camps after that.

"Mary is like a sponge; she's so coachable and absorbs everything," Puckett said. "She really has a love of learning, which is great if you're a coach, because a lot of kids just want to play. They aren't that interested in learning more things. But Mary always has been."

Waller has played and worked with Lindsey Puckett, along with C.M. Wright teammate Erin Lolley, for most of the past 10 years. They've regularly played recreation and indoor field hockey, much of which involved Alice Puckett.

"She always loved to play, and when you learn from somebody like Alice, it's easy to love the game," said Karen Waller, Mary's mother. "Alice recognized her potential early on, and she encouraged Mary, but she also mentored her."

Waller is now trying to do the same thing for others. She spends a lot of time coaching elementary-school kids who play field hockey. Puckett said the Fallston players who volunteered their time to coach at her clinics and programs helped Waller in many ways.

Waller enjoys being able to do the same thing for children in a Bel Air recreation program along with Puckett's summer camps.

"I love coaching so much," Waller said. "I love little kids in general, just to coach them and to teach them about something I feel passionate about makes me feel so good. It's interesting to be on the other side, because for the past 10 years I've been the one being coached."

Waller will be playing in college next year while possibly studying to be a pharmacist. But she'll keep doing for kids what Puckett did for her.

Since the two families are friendly, Waller probably was able to grow closer to the Cougars program than most. Some of those championship pictures she's in are on plaques at Fallston High.

Waller knows about that. Now she wants something similar at C.M. Wright.

"I am definitely proud to be a Mustang," Waller said. "I just saw how much it meant to those girls, and I just knew it was something I would want to be a part of. This is my last chance."

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