At first glance, it’s easy to spot the differences between Nicole and Mariel McLaughlin.
Mariel’s a bit taller. Nicole smiles a bit bigger. Mariel plays in midfield, whereas Nicole defends the back line. But the contrasts go much deeper than outward appearances suggest, and everyone around the LSU soccer program knows it.
“They’re a combination of the best of friends but two very different people,” LSU coach Brian Lee said. “They’ve got a great sisterly relationship. Nicole’s a little more social, whereas Mariel is a little more academic. Nicole’s a little more serious, and Mariel’s a little funnier.”
The differences don’t stem from a need to prove anything — Mariel said being the younger sister hasn’t put a chip on her shoulder. But Mariel, a redshirt freshman, has always been two years behind Nicole, dating back to their playing days at Melbourne Central Catholic High School in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Nicole, currently a junior at LSU, was a star at Melbourne, earning first-team All-State recognition in 2010. Mariel followed closely in her sister’s footsteps, garnering multiple All-State accolades while being named Melbourne Central Catholic’s most valuable player from 2010 to 2012. On occasion, Mariel would even sometimes play for Nicole’s club team despite the age gap.
Nicole and Mariel anchored their high school squad during its 2010 regular season. But when Nicole suffered an ankle injury on senior night before the playoffs started, Mariel carried the squad on its deep post-season run to the state semifinals.
“[Mariel] is very smart and knows the game very well, so she can read what to do and when to do it,” Nicole said. “She has a mentality where she’s not going to let someone beat her, and a lot of people could not beat her in high school.”
The sisters denied having any sibling rivalry because they never had to compete for the same position, but they did agree that having someone to train with made the work easier. Training for the McLaughlins was a family affair – they played soccer with their older brother and his friends while striking up a running regimen with their mother and older sister.
“It’s not like playing together affects our relationship,” Nicole said. “We’ve always worked together to be fit enough to do the running when we got to be here. Over the holidays and summer, we are able to work together and motivate each other in order to be ready to be here playing together.”
Mariel praised Nicole’s work ethic and said she was a constant source of motivation.
“[Nicole] works really hard,” Mariel said. “All through high school, she was the hardest working player on the field. I had never played with somebody who worked that hard, and it’s really nice to play with her because you can tell that she cares and has a lot of passion.”
Senior defender Addie Eggleston, who lives with Nicole, said the sisters are total opposites. Eggleston noted the lack of hostility between the sisters, claiming that Nicole and Mariel balance each other out despite their differences.
Nicole participated in seven games during her first two years at LSU, and she and Mariel have both played in three matches this season. Though neither of the McLaughlins has made an impact on the score sheet, Lee raved about how well they embrace their roles.
“They’re both wonderful examples to their teammates of hard work on and off the field,” Lee said. “Their demeanor and personalities are exactly what you need, whether it’s as a starter or a reserve. They give their best, and they’re smiley and happy, so they really help foster a winning environment.”
Through the years, Nicole and Mariel have always unflinchingly supported each other. Success for one means success for both, but there are some who don’t buy the absence of sibling rivalry.
“I think they have a little rivalry,” Lee said. “Mariel’s got a little younger sister rivalry in her. So for the coaches, it’s fun when they compete against each other. It’s something we get a little chuckle out of because I do think it raises their intensity a little.”