Lacrosse Stars’ Friendship Drives Them To Win

Jackson Memorial's Sabrina Chandler (left) and Heather Devaney celebrate their acceptance to Georgian Court University where they will play for the Lions. (Photo courtesy John Devaney)

JACKSON – These scoring machines are best friends.

Jackson Memorial High School senior girls lacrosse standouts Sabrina Chandler and Heather Devaney were best known for their ability to put home plenty of goals for the Jaguars.

Each scored more than 100 career varsity goals.

However, their relationship runs deeper than success in their beloved sport. They have played together since they were fifth-graders in the Jackson Pride Lacrosse Club.

“When we first met, I did not see us getting as close as we are now,” Chandler said. “Now that we are heading to Georgian Court University (where they will play women’s lacrosse for the Lions) we have grown so much closer. Heather is the person I tell everything to. She thinks of me the same way. She is the person I can always talk to. She is always there when I need her on and off the field.”

“We just showed a love of lacrosse on and off the field and clicked,” Devaney, said after scoring 64 goals and handing out 36 assists for the Jaguars this season. “We have always clicked. I can always go to Sabrina for anything, especially matters that concern lacrosse. If I need help, she is always there for me. She began playing lacrosse before I did and her dad (Ronald) was a big factor in my learning the game.”

Chandler and Devaney drive each other to excel on and off the field.

“Each day in school and on the field we motivate each other to work hard and to keep pushing,” said Chandler, who netted 52 goals and added 19 assists for the Jaguars in 2018. “We do have a passion for the sport. We have a little competition to see who has the most draws and assists.”

Chandler played four varsity seasons and wound up with 150 goals and nearly 80 assists. She played several positions.

“I played center for four years and also in the midfield if need be,” she said. “I basically played everything. I guess if I had to choose a favorite position it would have to be on offense as I love the action. I get to set up the plays. Being able to score goals is awesome, too.”

Chandler scored her 100th career goal in a loss to the Brick Memorial Mustangs as a junior. She reached the milestone from five feet, driving a low shot between the legs of their keeper.

“When I first scored it, I almost forgot it was my 100th as I was just trying to play the game I was not purposely trying to score my 100th goal,” she said. “Once I saw everyone come up to me, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes,’ and it was very exciting.”

Chandler said she had hoped to score 100 career varsity goals before graduating.

“It was definitely a goal of mine to reach it,” she said. “I was not expecting to reach it. I am very satisfied that I was able to reach 100.”

Chandler enjoys one-on-one situations.

“I take on my defender and read her moves,” she said. “Heather and I have this connection. It is hard to explain. Ever since we were little kids, we have been able to read each other’s moves. We have been able to figure out where to pass the ball to each other. I assist her a lot and she assists me a lot.

“Our ability to read each other comes from us being such close friends. We have always bonded with each other no matter what. We go out there to have fun, but we also take it very seriously. We want to win. When we are on offense together, we know something is going to happen.”

Chandler and Devaney have been known to run a play known as “butter” to great success.

“When we are behind the net, we say, ‘Butter, butter,’ and we roll to the crease,” Chandler said. “The defenders become confused. One of us gets open and shoots it (the ball) into the cage. That works very nicely.”

The play originates at the top of the 12-meter line.

“We give each other a head nod and we know what to do,” Chandler said. “We cross in front of each other and I give her a pop pass, a quick little pass. She catches the ball real quick and the defenders are confused most of the time. I will try to block off the defender or she will go around the defender and vice versa.”

Jackson Memorial’s Heather Devaney (left) and Sabrina Chandler were imposing players for the Jaguars. (Photo courtesy John Devaney)

Devaney finished her three-year varsity career with 136 goals and 76 assists. She competed at midfield and attack. She reached the milestone with a free position shot into the upper right corner of the net from eight meters in a 12-11 loss to the Southern Regional Rams earlier this season. She burned the Rams for five goals and four assists.

“When I scored it, I knew it was my 100th,” she said. “When Sabrina scored her 100th, we ran to each other. When I scored mine, we did the same thing. When I shot it, I knew it was going to go in. I got off the line so quick and I just knew it was going in.”

Devaney attributed her scoring prowess to dedication.

“My hard work and all the effort I put in for all of those years paid off,” she said. “After practice, I come home and put so much work into my stick work. During the off-season, I am always working on my game. I basically focus on my stick skills, which are my priority. I am very accurate at passing and shooting. I am very accurate in everything I do.”

Devaney said she takes pride in setting up teammates for goals.

“I like assisting on goals the most,” she said. “I have scored so many goals that scoring is not such a big deal to me anymore. I want to help everyone else score their goals.”

Devaney did not expect to achieve stardom.

“I am surprised at my success,” she said. “I knew I would put a lot of work into it, but I never felt it would pay off the way it did.”

Chandler played four years of girls varsity tennis, competing at first, second and third singles. She played junior varsity girls basketball as a sophomore.

“Just for fun to try it out,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I was unable to choose a favorite sport. I love tennis as it is such a different sport and an individual sport. I like lacrosse as it is a team sport where you can rely on your teammates and bond with them. In tennis, I love being on my own as I am such an individual person. I don’t know if I can choose one sport as my favorite sport.”

Chandler keeps busy off the field and off the courts.

She has served as president of the Class of 2018 since her freshman year. Ranked 52nd in a class of nearly 400 students, she’s a member of the science and French national honor societies. She aids special needs students in the Challenger Program. She’s a member of the Lynx Pride Program in which high school and middle school students discuss bullying and peer pressure.

As a P.A.L.S. leader, she helps orient freshmen for high school. She is also active in the Relay for Life in the fight against cancer as her mom, Rachel Chandler, has survived breast cancer. And she works in the retail business, selling dresses for such special occasions as weddings and proms. She also models formal dresses.

“I have a planner where I always write down what I need to do and when to do it,” she said. “I am a very, very organized person and I guess I get that from my mom. I always plan out everything I do. I keep track of stuff. For sure, I get stressed out, especially during the prom season. When we plan the prom, it gets very stressful and we have to meet all of the time. During the fall, there is Homecoming stuff to worry about.”

Devaney played three varsity seasons of field hockey at right wing and handed out 15 career assists.

“I scored maybe three goals overall,” she said. “I was more of an assists person. My favorite sport is definitely lacrosse. I just love the fast pace and skill level of the game.”

Devaney spends many hours coaching fifth and sixth-grade girls in lacrosse with the Pride. She has coached for four years.

“I spend most of my time coaching,” she said. “I love watching them grow. The girls have gotten so much better and it is an honor to have coached them.”

Two of her pupils, freshmen Chloe Grochowski and Sydney Walter, played on the Jaguars’ varsity team this year.

Heather Devaney (left) and Sabrina Chandler starred for the Jackson Memorial High School Jaguars. (Photo courtesy John Devaney)

“They would not take my spot,” Devaney said with a laugh. “They are the first players I have coached who are varsity teammates of mine. They both text me and tell me they are so happy they made the team. They played their first varsity game and were nervous. After the game, I told them how to better themselves and how to become more confident in themselves.”

Recruited as a midfielder, the 5-foot-8 Chandler will major in exercise science. She chose the Lions over Monmouth University, Chestnut Hill College and Stockton University.

“Georgian Court had everything I was looking for,” she said. “If I chose Monmouth, I was going to play goalie. Georgian Court is close to home and I am not a big party school girl. It has a beautiful campus.”

Chandler, a 135-pounder, said she will find collegiate lacrosse challenging.

“I guess you could say I need to work on everything to be a good college player,” she said. “I will start from square one. I will have a new coach and new teammates. It will be a new season with better players and a whole different game. I will do the best I can and listen to what my coach will say to me. I will work on me and whatever happens, happens.”

The 5-foot-3 Devaney, recruited as a midfielder, opted for the Lions over East Stroudsburg University and Newman University.

“Georgian Court has all I wanted in a school,” the 125-pounder who will major in business said. “From the first day I met the coach (Amy Rizzo) and the girls on the team, they made me feel at home. To be a good college player, I have to work on my strength. I want to become stronger so that I can keep up with the rest of the players. I want to increase my aerobic endurance.”

Chandler and Devaney have fond memories of high school.

“My athletic career was a lot of fun,” Chandler said. “It gave me many memories and met so many of my best friends. I was very successful. I am very proud of myself for what I accomplished. I definitely look back and am very satisfied with what I have done. Athletics taught me my work ethic and how to be determined. Athletics turned me into a well-rounded person.

“I was never looked at as someone who played sports as I dressed real nice when I was in middle school (Carl W. Goetz), kind of like a girly girl. In high school, I took my teammates and coaches by surprise as I was very athletic. I wanted to be known as a good athlete. It’s as simple as that.”

“I want to be remembered for my leadership and for how I worked with the freshmen who made the varsity team,” Devaney said. “I made them feel comfortable with the team.”

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Chris Christopher covers sports for Micromedia Publications Inc. with knowledge, pride and passion. His beats are the high school, college, professional, youth and recreational scenes. A three-time New Jersey Press Association award winner for sports writing, Christopher was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work in the media. The Lakewood resident enjoys taking walks in Ocean County Park and on the boardwalks in Ocean and Monmouth counties and rooting for the New York Mets.