Claudia McCarthy has always been one of the best field hockey coaches in South New Jersey. Now she can claim to be one of the best of all-time ... anywhere.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer and other sources, McCarthy set a South New Jersey record by recording her 500th career victory with her Millville (N.J.) High team's 1-0 shutout of Middle Township (N.J.) High.
Perhaps more notably, the win was the 500th of her legendary career, making her just the fifth field hockey coach ever to to reach the 500 win mark. While McCarthy's victory was a landmark for South New Jersey, incredibly it still falls some way short of the state record: Former Mammoth (N.J.) Shore Regional field hockey coach Nancy Williams won an astounding 756 games before retiring in 2009.
"It meant a lot (to get the win at home) because I know how I felt," McCarthy told the Star-Ledger. "I was so disappointed on the bus to Atlantic City that my friends and family couldn't be here. I guess I would say it was divine intervention."
The current Millville squad went to touching lengths to connect to their past generations. Members from teams across the 41 years McCarthy has spent coaching -- all at Millville -- were in attendance to watch her reach 500 wins.
Throughout it all, McCarthy's family has kept her success perfectly bracketed: In 1969, McCarthy's first Millville team featured one of her younger sisters. In 2011, one of her granddaughter plays for the Thunderbolts.
After McCarthy's younger granddaughter presented her with balloons to commemorate the victory, the legendary coach posed for a photo with her current team and accepted what might have been the most thoughtful gift of all: A collage made entirely of jerseys worn by Millville squads during McCarthy's four decades in charge.
Needless to say, it was not a small collage, by any stretch of the imagination, or the fabric.