As the center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Gloucester Catholic High School softball team, Laphan is depended on heavily to get on base, steal, score runs and make great plays in the outfield.
But Laphan’s welcoming personality and ability to make her teammates smile through adversity is what makes her a popular leader on the team. With no assigned captains on the team, Laphan took it upon herself to lead in her own way during her senior year.
“I love the coaching staff and I love the girls,” Laphan said. “We always have a fun time and I try to make everyone laugh at practice. But when it has to get serious, I make everyone focus. You have to lighten things up when you can.”
On the field, she leads by example. Through May 20, Laphan is tops on the list of a talented Rams roster in hits (29), runs scored (32), stolen bases (11) and batting average (.537). Her success comes from being one of the toughest outs in South Jersey, and that equals wins for the Rams, who were 15-2 through May 20 and had won 14 in a row.
“When she gets on base, she gets the spark going,” said Rams head coach Carly Todd. “When she scores, it turns the momentum of the game.”
Getting on base has extra incentive for Laphan, as she gets to say a quick “hello” and receive encouragement from her father, Jim, who is the first base coach. But Laphan usually doesn’t stick around long with good hitters behind her in the lineup. The two have plenty of time to catch up on the car ride home afterwards, discussing a big win.
“I love having him coach,” Abby said. “Even though sometimes it can get hard and he’ll definitely pick on me, he makes me a better player and he actually coached me growing up for travel and it’s been one of the best experiences. I love having that connection with him. It’s where we get to bond. It’s been a fun ride with him.”
The close family bonds don’t end there, especially through sports. Abby followed her mother’s footsteps as a softball player at Gloucester Catholic. Her brother, Jimmy played football and wrestled for the Rams, and he now serves in the United States Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He’s a five-hour drive away so he hasn’t been able to catch a Gloucester Catholic game this spring. But Abby expects to reunite over the summer.
“We’re very close,” Abby said, “Growing up, I’ve always been the younger but older sister so I would always make sure he was on top of his stuff and I’d wake him up for school. … It’s been hard not having him here but he’s got to do what he’s got to do. He’ll see my travel games when he’s home.”
The whole family will have the opportunity to see Abby play college ball over the next four years as she is committed to Caldwell University in North Jersey, where she will study early education. The idea of teaching came from her favorite sport, and how she plays the game.
“When I was growing up and playing softball, I liked coaching little girls,” Laphan said. “So I grew to like teaching younger kids. I’m always trying to teach all my little cousins and be a role model in the right way.”
It works on the softball field. Coach Todd decided not to appoint team captains this season, but instead let the players figure it out on their own.
“When I went to Rutgers (University) and we didn’t have captains there,” said Todd, who took over the team in 2019. “When you have captains, the other players look to them to always step up and make big plays. So without captains, anybody can really do that. It doesn’t need to be a senior. I found that with no captains, nobody is afraid to step up and hold each other accountable. It’s worked for us.”
That’s not to say the seniors haven’t contributed their share of heroics. Along with Laphan, crucial roles are played by third baseman Bella McKevitt, shortstop Lucea Hutchinson and second baseman Ella VanDine.
“All four of them show some sort of leadership,” Todd said. “Whether it’s leading by example or being that loud person that never shuts up, cheering the team on, or just making sure that everyone’s attitude is always up. To have all four seniors come back as mentally checked in and as hungry as they are is probably the difference in our season so far.”
It all starts at the top of the order, leading off and playing center field, Abby Laphan.
“Just coming out here and playing like every game is my last is my motto right now,” Laphan said. “I’m coming out here blazing and trying to do everything I can do.”
The Rams are counting on it.
republish here with permission of The Catholic Star Herald