Meet Cabrini’s notable Nearys

By Angelina Miller
December 7, 2016

At the helm: 

From field hockey, to lacrosse, to soccer and tennis, one specific family from Logan Township, New Jersey, has been making their mark on Cabrini University’s athletics throughout the past two decades. This all began in the fall of 1997 when mother Jackie Neary was hired as Cabrini’s first official full time athletics coach.

“I never really saw myself as becoming a coach,” Cabrini’s women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams head coach Neary said. “I just sort of fell into it by accident, but now it’s my passion.”

Growing up, coach Neary played both field hockey and lacrosse throughout middle school and high school. Her passion for sports really took off at Ridley High School where she was fortunate enough to receive an athletic scholarship to Temple University.

Photo By Jackie Neary

Coach Neary starred as a two-sport athlete at Temple, playing both field hockey and lacrosse. Through those two sports, she was part of four teams that reached the NCAA Final Four. As a senior in 1985, she served as co-captain for both the Owls lacrosse and field hockey teams and earned the honorable titles of first team Regional All-American and second team All-American.

After graduating from Temple University as a criminal justice major, coach Neary immediately slid right into a job at Federal Express, better known as FedEx, for 20 years. She also coached field hockey at Ridley High School from 1986-1995 and women’s lacrosse at Temple University from 1991-1994.

Coach Neary became the first inductee of the Ridley High School Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. She was also inducted into the Temple University Athletic Hall of Fame in Oct. 2012, along with the rest of the members from the 1984 national championship team.

I was blessed all through high school and college to have amazing women that coached me,” Neary said. “My inspiration to become a coach definitely came from being around people like them.”

In 1996, coach Neary chased an advertisement that she saw in the paper for a head lacrosse coach at Cabrini College and was quickly hired for the position. She then courageously started the women’s lacrosse program from scratch in 1997 and lead the Cavaliers to their first undefeated season within a year’s time.

“After my first year coaching the lacrosse team at Cabrini, the field hockey coach left to coach at Villanova,” coach Neary said. “I always loved and played field hockey and I knew girls that played both, so of course took the coaching job, and I was so glad that I did.”

Photo by Jackie Neary

Shortly after becoming the head coach for Cabrini’s women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams, coach Neary also became the department’s student-athlete wellness coordinator. As wellness coordinator, she dedicates time towards helping student-athletes adjust to the college environment, specifically with the academic and personal spectrums.

The 2016-2017 school year marks coach Neary’s 21st year with Cavalier athletics, but more specifically, the women’s field hockey and lacrosse programs. Since the beginning of her legendary coaching career, she has become an 11-time CSAC Coach of the Year in women’s lacrosse and a 4-time Coach of the Year in women’s field hockey.

She has also guided the Cavaliers to obtain numerous honors including the achievement of 14 CSAC titles, 13 NCAA tournament appearances, a 100-win plateau with the 2005 field hockey team and a perfect 9-0 regular season CSAC record with 2008 field hockey team. Winning CSAC championships and achieving honorable titles still remain exciting for her as a coach though.

“My assistant coach Julie Smith summed it up when we won our field hockey championship two weeks ago,” Neary said. “When we won, Julie repeatedly said out loud, ‘This never gets old,’ and it doesn’t. That feeling of success and all the hard work paying off is just indescribable.”  

According to coach Neary, the challenge of consistently trying to do well and not disappoint year after year are what keeps things from getting old for her.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “You put a lot of hard work in, the girls especially. But as a coach, it’s both important and challenging to recognize your players’ strengths and weaknesses and develop a team that can get into the championship.”

Keep it in the family: 

Coach Neary also has a noticeably positive attitude that prevents any challenges or hardships thrown her way from ever getting the best of her. A perfect example of this took place in 2000, when she encountered a bout with cancer but still led the women’s field hockey team to a CSAC championship game, regardless of recent radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Her positive attitude not only rubs off on Cabrini’s field hockey and lacrosse teams, but also her family as well. This includes her daughter Jackie, who is a junior marketing major at Cabrini University and a midfield player for both Cabrini’s women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams.

Photo by Angelina Miller

Neary was coached in t-ball by her mom growing up, then played field hockey throughout her four years of high school at Kingsway Regional in New Jersey. From Kingsway, she moved onto Cabrini because of its small size and the fact that she could play both field hockey and lacrosse.

Now, as a junior, she has been coached by her mom in field hockey and lacrosse for the past three years. “People always ask me what it is like to have my mom as my coach,” Neary said. “She doesn’t treat me different though. When I’m on the field, I’m just another player to her and she’s just my coach.”

In fact, Neary said she actually prefers her mom as her coach as to having her as just another supporting parent on the sidelines. “If I wasn’t at Cabrini, I know she wouldn’t be able to see me play as much since we’re both in season at the same time,” Neary said. “She’s also coached me for so long that I just know she’s a really good coach and has a lot to offer to myself and whatever team I’m on.”

Neary has also carried on her mom’s gene of athletic success, as she has recently been named the MVP of field hockey’s 2016 CSAC championship game.

“I didn’t play well in our game before, so I went into that championship game with a mindset of wanting to play better and win, which we did, and that feeling was amazing,” Neary said.

She knew she could not have achieved the victory without her teammates though. “We really wanted the CSAC title this year. Everyone has stepped up and we all inspire and lead each other which has made it a really good year for us overall.”

As one of the strongest players for both the field hockey and lacrosse teams at Cabrini, Neary does her best to be both a good leader and influence on her fellow teammates. “My main thing is to stay as positive as possible to keep everyone motivated and going,” she said.

Neary also positively influences her younger sister Shay, who is a current lacrosse player at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa.

Although Shay did not fall in love with field hockey as her mother and sister did, she has been playing lacrosse since the 5th grade and still bonds with them through that.

“I would say I definitely look up to Jackie when it comes to sports,” Neary said. “I think she’s a really good athlete overall, which is good to have ahead of me as motivation and a role model for myself.”

Both Shay and Jackie also look up to their older brothers Sean and Jacob with athletics as well, as they both previously played soccer and tennis for Cabrini.

One thing that is for sure is that the Neary name is one for the books at Cabrini, with coach Neary continuing to lead it today. “I enjoy traveling, going to the beach, and spending time with my family outside of Cabrini,” Neary said. “But really, my heart and soul goes towards being a coach for the school.”

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Angelina Miller

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