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Aurora Cordingley using own talent, father’s roots to shine for Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse

Aurora Cordingley leads the Johns Hopkins offense in goals with 35 and points with 48.
Aurora Cordingley leads the Johns Hopkins offense in goals with 35 and points with 48. (James T VanRensselaer)

Having played lacrosse for the past 17 years, Aurora Cordingley is a fine-tuned, well-oiled attacker for the Johns Hopkins women’s team. But if there is one guilty pleasure the 5-foot-4 senior from Oakville, Ontario, has, it involves Cheez-Its.

Not only are they delicious, but the 21-year-old Cordingley also recalled eating a box of the cheese-flavored crackers before playing well in a high school game pitting her Hill Academy against Bishop Ireton in Virginia.

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“We didn’t have Cheez-Its in Canada growing up,” she said. “Now luckily, they have them in Canada. So I’m fine there, but I’m definitely still addicted to them. They’re my comfort food. … I can go through a box a day, easily. So I had to stop buying them because it was getting pretty bad.”

Lately, Cordingley has been helping the No. 12 Blue Jays (7-5 overall and Big Ten) devour their competition. Johns Hopkins, which has won three straight games and five of six in the month of April, earned the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, and tangled with No. 6 seed Penn State in a quarterfinal on Thursday night at the Nittany Lions’ Panzer Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.

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The team has had the luxury of leaning on Cordingley, who leads the offense in goals with 35 and points with 48. She ranks third in the Big Ten in points per game at 4.0 and fourth in goals per game at 2.9, and coach Janine Tucker said she has noticed opposing defenses paying extra attention to Cordingley.

“Teams have to prepare for her, and that’s the utmost compliment,” Tucker said.

Cordingley’s success in the sport might not be terribly surprising considering her lineage. Her father, Troy Cordingley, spent 10 seasons in the National Lacrosse League, won two indoor league titles with the Buffalo Bandits in 1993 and 1996, was a member of the Canadian national team that earned the bronze medal at the 1994 World Lacrosse Championship and continues to rank in the Bandits’ all-time top 10 in goals, assists and points.

After an injury forced him to retire after the 2001 season, Cordingley transitioned to coaching, guiding the Calgary Roughnecks to the Champion’s Cup in 2009 and the Toronto Rock to the title in 2011. After coaching Buffalo from 2013 to 2018, Cordingley moved to the franchise’s front office, where he is an assistant general manager.

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Cordingley, now 54 and a second-grade teacher in Ontario, said he and his wife, Darlah, a 49-year-old employee of a distribution company, signed up Aurora as the only girl in a box lacrosse league for boys when she was 4 years old.

“At that age, we were just mostly interested in introducing her to the game,” he said. “And she enjoyed it. So that’s mostly why we did it.”

Aurora Cordingley, who played box lacrosse for six years before switching to a field lacrosse league for girls when she was 11, credited her time with the boys in aiding her development as a player.

“I think as I started to get older when they got a little bit faster and bigger and stronger, that forced me to have to be a little bit quicker with my decision-making and go a little bit stronger and faster, too,” she said. “So I think that pushed me to be a better player.”

Cordingley — Rory to family and friends — popped onto Tucker’s radar when the coach agreed in 2014 to visit a clinic in Ontario run by Jim Calder, the brother of former Johns Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder.

“I see this kid who might have been 30 pounds soaking wet just slicing and dicing kids up there,” Tucker said. “Her stick was just off the charts, her lacrosse IQ was incredible, and she just really turned my head. My whole thing was, ‘I’m doing this as a favor to TC and Jim, and I absolutely love them, but if I could just find one kid that I could bring back, that would be pretty awesome.’ And I was darned that Rory was that one kid.”

After being the youngest member of Canada’s Under-19 team that won the gold medal at the 2015 World Championships, Cordingley selected the Blue Jays over Albany, Canisius, Richmond and Vermont. In 2018, she led the freshman class in goals (19) and points (27) and became a full-time starter the following season, ranking second on the offense in goals (41) and points (63) and third in assists (22) and caused turnovers (20).

Midway through that sophomore campaign, Cordingley said she sensed a personality shift.

“I think during my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year, I was still learning so much, and I had some great people on the offense that were older than me and influenced me and would often be the vocal leaders,” she said. “So I think as I got to the end of my sophomore year, I was like, ‘OK, now you’re an upperclassmen, and you have two years of games under your belt. So now you have to start being a leader and more vocal for the younger girls.’”

Caitlin Ohnmacht, a senior defender who grew up in Ellicott City and graduated from Mount Hebron, said she has admired Cordingley’s leadership style.

“She’s not the loudest person out there, but she just leads by example,” Ohnmacht said. “And she holds herself to an insanely high standard, and she holds everyone else to a high standard whether you’re going to play the whole game or you’re not even going to get a minute of playing time, which I think is something really important.”

Cordingley lives in an off-campus rowhouse with Ohnmacht and three other senior defenders — Jeanne Kachris, Trinity McPherson (Catonsville) and Haley Reitz (Bryn Mawr). Despite being the only offensive player in the house, Cordingley said she has benefited from the arrangement.

“Especially when I’m watching another team’s offense, I can use what I know to help them succeed against certain dodgers or certain sets,” she said, adding they usually share notes over dinner. “And the same goes for them watching defenders and telling me that this is what I need to do to get her hips open or this is what I need to do when she is off-ball. It’s cool because we get to see another person’s perspective.”

After a 17-10 thumping of Rutgers on April 11, Johns Hopkins honored its eight seniors and three graduate students, many of whom had family in the stands ringing Homewood Field. Despite travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic preventing Troy and Darlah Cordingley from attending, the team surprised Aurora Cordingley by streaming video of her parents onto the giant scoreboard at one end of the field.

“It meant a great deal to my wife and me,” Troy Cordingley said. “We were happy to be a part of it in whatever capacity. It was just an unbelievable gesture.”

Aurora Cordingley said a good portion of her accomplishments can be traced back to her father.

“Obviously seeing his success has always pushed me to want to achieve success of my own and push myself to a higher standard of trying to win as many championships as he has,” she said. “But I think mostly, it’s just how he raised me to be competitive and how nothing ever comes easy and how only hard work gets you to where you want to be. I think those are the best lessons I’ve gotten from him and why I’m here today.”

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Cordingley will graduate next month with a bachelor’s in international studies, has applied for admission to the university’s Carey School of Business to pursue a master’s, and intends to return to the team next spring. Tucker said Cordingley, who ranks fifth in school history in career assists (61) and 10th in goals (112) and points (173), belongs in the conversation about the top players to have played for the program.

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For perhaps the first time in her career, Cordingley disagreed with her coach.

“I wouldn’t consider myself up there with some of the great players,” she said. “That’s just a reflection of my teammates. It’s easy to be successful here because I’m surrounded by such amazing people and my teammates trust me and my coaches put me in a position that they trust me in, and I’m just really lucky to be on this team.”

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