Friends All The Way: McCormick And Pedrick Bring Close Friendship To UMass
May 3, 2006
You could really start this story anywhere. Pick a time and place. Whether it's a snowy late February afternoon atop one of Worcester's famed Seven Hills, inside the exhilarating confines of Syracuse University's Carrier Dome, or even Garber Field's own unforgiving Astroturf, this story practically writes itself on current merits alone.
High School All-American. Freshman sensation. Superstardom forthcoming. Re-written record book to follow.
But what you really need to do is dig deep and go back 12 years to Saratoga Springs, a medium-sized suburb of Albany in upstate New York where nine-year-old Rory Pedrick had just moved into town. He eventually moved onto a street called Sherwood Trail across from pal Kayt McCormick before seventh grade, and the two became close friends shortly after.
Kayt had an older brother, Brendan, who hung out and played sports with Pedrick (Rory is a year older than Kayt) and as a result, she started to tag along with the group. Turns out she was able to hold her own with the boys, whatever sport they were playing.
Then one day, sitting in the McCormicks' kitchen with Kayt - then a seventh-grader - and her mother, Rory pitched them an idea: why not drop soccer, the sport she was currently involved in, and pick up a lacrosse stick?
"I told her, 'Kayt, I'll teach you how to play,'" Pedrick said. "She was like 'What's that?' like she didn't even know. I said, 'You've got to play lacrosse.' My older sister played, so I went across the street, said 'Come throw with me,' and she did. I was whipping the ball at Kayt, and she was catching it like it was nothing. She just picked it up so quick."
Things soon blossomed on the field. As a lacrosse player at Saratoga High School, McCormick's height and frame gave her serious advantage on attack, but was constantly subject to double-teams and faceguards. Yet in spite of all this, she fought off defenders with the intensity of a bull and the ease of flicking a bug, earning career marks of 202 goals and 65 assists for 267 points. In addition to being a field hockey All-American, she became the first player in school history win Player of the Year and U.S. Lacrosse All-American twice each.
Flashes of a mean competitive streak were evident early. Pedrick reminisces about a soccer tournament ages ago when McCormick would race him, Brendan and their teammates to see who was faster. The winner was - yep - McCormick, who was two years the junior of most of the kids on Pedrick's team.
When Pedrick told her to make sure she was good at throwing either left or right, she aced it. Everything she was taught from the boys, she adapted to quickly. Very quickly.
McCormick isn't hesitant to credit her style to playing around with Pedrick and the boys ("I guess that's where I get my aggressiveness from," she laughs).
But more importantly to be noted is Pedrick's role to the McCormick family. When Kayt was a sixth-grader, her father died of cancer, leaving her without a true father figure in her life. Leave it to Brendan and Pedrick, who gave her assurance that she always had someone to turn to across the street - anytime she needed help with anything.
"She looked out for me, and I was always on the lookout for her, trying to tell her the right thing to do as far as sports," Pedrick says. "Socially, she held her own, but as far as decisions [on the field] and how she could get better, she looked to me."
One might even argue that Pedrick's influence extended to the fateful choice of which college to attend - and she had plenty of choices. Being the lacrosse hotbed that it is, scouts swarm to upstate New York on a yearly basis, and McCormick was no exception, garnering looks from big-time schools such as Johns Hopkins, Northwestern and Duke.
Funny thing - well, considering recent history, probably not - is, she almost went down to Durham, N.C., to matriculate and compete at Duke.
"Had I gone, I probably would have transferred," she says when asked of her reaction to the recent men's lacrosse scandal. "It disgusts me. I think about it, and I'm [thinking], why is one of the top programs, one of the top schools academically ... it just triggers my mind that kids with such higher class would stoop so low. If I were on the women's team, I definitely would have transferred out of there."
Pedrick signed with Massachusetts in 2004, and as a freshman last season, he scored just one goal in seven games at midfield. This season, Pedrick has evolved from sparse role player to 12th man, ranking third on the team in points (22 points on nine goals and 13 assists) despite making no starts through 13 games.
When word got around that UMass women's lacrosse coach Carrie Bolduc - an Albany native who attended one of Saratoga's rival schools, Albany Academy for Girls - was interested in her, Pedrick had some words of encouragement for Kayt that proved beneficial in Bolduc's recruiting plan.
Kayt - who admits she was "very stubborn" throughout the recruiting process - could play anywhere and have a successful career; but here at UMass, a mediocre program looking to regain its national title form from the 1980s, she could be a star by leaps and bounds. She could be, as Pedrick put it, "a stud."
UMass also had another advantage: cohesiveness. Bolduc's infectious warmth and youthfulness rubs off on her players, making for a team that bonds like superglue and, wins and losses aside, likes to have fun out there.
This is evident in the minutes leading up to the game at Garber Field, where handfuls of players are often dancing around to whatever music is blaring over the loudspeakers (try pulling something like that on Pat Summit's watch).
"That had everything to do with [my decision]," McCormick said of the team's unity. "I love the program, I love where it's at, and coming here I knew I could make an impact in my first year - if not, second - but definitely, when I came here, it was all about the team, coaches, everything. I just loved the school. I knew it was such a young team that in the future we would do great things."
Keeping things simple, Bolduc advertised the school, without any bells and whistles.
"I didn't do anything different," says Bolduc, whose 2005 recruiting class features three high school All-Americans, including McCormick. "Either you like the school or you don't. You can't sell what the school isn't.
"[Rory] was a nice bonus; him being here for a year helped her understand what UMass is all about."
McCormick signed last spring "at the last minute" and has quickly made an impact on the field. She currently ranks second on the team in points (35) behind sophomore Kathleen Typadis (42), and has been making big splashes since the moment she laced up the shoes to take the field.
While the trip to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse pops into McCormick's head when asked to name her biggest moment of the year so far (the Minutewomen, for the record, lost that night 15-9), Bolduc cites McCormick's first game in Maroon and White as the best.
That snowy afternoon atop Worcester's Pakachoag Hill (also known as Mount St. James), site of the opposing College of the Holy Cross, the Minutewomen were short two starters on defense. Bolduc placed McCormick, normally an attacking midfielder, in the back.
Despite losing to the Crusaders 11-8, with the field blanketed in a good inch-and-a-half of snow, McCormick electrified. She led all scorers with four goals on five shots, and scooped up four ground balls in what was her first and only start on defense. Bolduc immediately moved her up to attack following the game, and the results speak for themselves.
Bolduc had sparse but strong words to say of that performance: "Holy Cow."
It won't be the last time those words roll off her tongue.
As far as team chemistry is concerned, McCormick has been a quick adapter as well ("I like her character best; she's full of life, a pleasure to be around," Bolduc says). On a team where uniqueness in dress is the common thread, everyone has their own style - white knee socks, black quarter-length socks, black tights, pink wristbands, white headband, black-and-white socks, you name it. McCormick ups the ante, however, with fire-engine-red knee-high socks and a matching bandanna wrapped snug around her forehead.
You can spot her from a mile away sporting what she calls a tradition she's had since high school, but it's the only way she'll have it. The socks have become "ratty and worn," in her words, but the tradition lives on.
Through 2006, McCormick and Typadis have teamed up on the attack to form one of the more exciting scoring tandems in the Atlantic 10. The ying to each other's yang, their contrasting styles play off each other beautifully.
McCormick, at 5-foot-7, is a hard-charging bruiser, fighting her way through defenses like a Mack Truck with one goal in mind: the opponent's goal. Typadis, at 5-foot-2, has become more of a cranial player, bouncing off and swinging around defenders with cat-like grace, and making some speedy cuts and weaves through the middle of the defense for some sweet scores.
"I look up to Kath a lot," McCormick says. "We have totally different playing styles, and she's just a phenomenal athlete. I love having her to play with. It's fun."
As far as that other companion is concerned, Kayt and Rory still keep in touch. While they live on opposite sides of Southwest Residential Area on campus, and are off doing their own things in their own social groups, they still talk a lot.
"We're doing our own thing, keeping in touch, but we definitely support each other," Pedrick says. "I talk to her just as much as any of the other girls on the team. I support her, and she supports me. It's good."
That's for sure. Whenever Kayt's got a problem, all she has to do is call up the kid who's been looking after her since they first met over a decade ago.
Advice? Dilemma? Confused? Just plain bored? Strike up those digits on the cell phone. It's as if they're still in Saratoga, playing another game of toss.
As James Taylor might sing, she's got a friend.
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