The Florida Gators women’s lacrosse team geared up to face the Jacksonville Dolphins in their first exhibition game of the preseason. Freshman attacker Taylor McCord charged down the field en route to score her first preseason collegiate goal as her parents watched without smiling, clapping or cheering. Mindy and Paul McCord wanted to celebrate for their daughter, but the Gators were the enemy.
This fall, Taylor embarked on her newest journey as a freshman at the University of Florida, playing for the Gators’ third season as an NCAA lacrosse team. Coached by Amanda O’Leary, September 30 marked the Gators their first preseason game of the fall. Irony set off family rivalries that evening, as Taylor’s mother and father are the coach and assistant coach, respectively, of the JU women’s lacrosse team.
Lacrosse wasn’t always Taylor’s first priority. A natural athlete, she was a cheerleader and played basketball and softball before dabbling into lacrosse. Her mother Mindy began playing lacrosse her junior year at Westminster High School in Maryland after it instituted its first-ever girl’s lacrosse team. She began holding lacrosse clinics in Jacksonville when Taylor was in fifth grade, but it wasn’t until two years later that Taylor fell in love with the game. The talent that her mother spotted early on was finally put into action.
With her approaching graduation from Bartram Trail High School in Jacksonville, Taylor faced one of the toughest questions for the future of her lax career—UF or JU? Family is important to the McCord’s, and though there was a lot back-and-forth in the decision-making process, she ultimately chose to be a Gator.
“Since I started playing lacrosse, I wanted to play for a top ten nationally ranked Division I team,” Taylor said, “and UF was the best opportunity given to me to do so.”
Emotions ran rampant at that fateful game. Taylor sported her number 21 orange-and-blue jersey with excitement while Mindy and Paul focused on the ladies in green. Mindy had no choice but to consider her daughter as the opponent that evening.
“She is a competitor out there, and so are we,” Mindy said. “We love the challenge and we love the sportsmanship that Friday night showed between two up-and-coming Division I powers in Florida.”
Taylor felt that her family’s competitive nature gave her extra fuel, and in the end, she found the family rivalry to be fun—especially when she scored her first goal.
“It was probably bittersweet for my parents,” said Taylor. ” They said they wanted to cheer for me, then they realized I was the opponent.”
As the only freshman native to Florida on this year’s roster, Taylor hopes to represent the state and improve her stick and shooting skills to assist her team to a national championship this year. When asked how she felt about her choice to play for the Gators, her response was short and sweet
“I made the right choice to play for UF; there is no doubt about it.”
Taylor has experienced traditions as a college freshman off the field, exemplified by attending class on the wrong day and eating ramen noodles on a regular basis. In the next four years, she plans to embrace those adventures while keeping lacrosse close to her heart.
“My goals are to continue to play lacrosse for as long as possible. Whether it is playing for the USA team or coaching younger teams, I want to stay involved with the sport that changed my life.”
This article reprinted by permission from Gator Country. This story originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Gator Country Magazine. VIP subscribers to GatorCountry.comreceive the magazine in the mail every month, and copies are available throughout Gainesville.