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A big red bruise

Elise Gao ‘26 

Oct 6, 2023

Last weekend, Mercersburg Academy’s field hockey, girls tennis, volleyball, boys soccer, and girls soccer invited The Lawrenceville School to a MAPL matchup in front of students, faculty, and families. The strong rivalry between the Blue Storm and the Big Red motivated athletes to compete with hunger and tenacity.

Blue Storm teams expected their matchup against the Big Red to be a tough one as it has typically been in past seasons. Field hockey player Maria Rihn ‘24 commented, “The word MAPL itself is very daunting and scary. But we always play our hardest and do something that we’re proud of, which is the best thing.” This sentiment was echoed by girls tennis coach Mike Sweeney. He said, “Lawrenceville is traditionally very, very strong. [We’ve] never beaten them in the twenty-one years that we’ve been in the MAPL—so I’m always hopeful—but also realistic. They’re usually good, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Most teams featured a substantial number of new and green players who had never played against the Big Red. Soccer player Dylan Stiffler ‘24 said, “[We] have a young team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores because a lot of our seniors graduated last year.” Similarly, girls tennis and girls soccer experienced major changes in their team dynamics due to an influx of new talented players. Nevertheless, soccer player Nina McDowell ‘25 remarked, “I think we’re doing well. I can feel the chemistry out on the field, and I think we’ve got some new girls this year that are talented.” 

Despite these changes that can easily become challenges, the teams kept their spirits high by maintaining an optimistic attitude in preparation for their MAPL game. Tennis player Emily Tan ‘24 urged her teammates to, “Stay strong and stay tough. We got this!”  Volleyball player Audrey Hua ‘26 elaborated, “Going into the game with the mindset that the opponent is going to be tough will be helpful to prepare for the match. And I also think that we’re a strong team in terms of spirit and mentality this year, so [we’ll] be able to fight until the end. And that’s what matters.” 

Blue Storm athletes have set up high expectations for themselves to meet in their upcoming match. Soccer player Arnav Rao ‘26 said, “[My goal is to] have a clean sheet. That means to not get any goals scored on me.” A defense-oriented goal was also reflected by the field hockey player. “I just want to stay locked down on defense. [I want to] help out our goalies  and keep it a close game.” Soccer player Lilly Killinger ‘26, who was sidelined due to an ankle injury, joined in the fighting spirit as well. “I’m praying I can play and get out of the boot so that I’m there. But other than that, I want our team to put up a good fight.” 

Indeed, Blue Storm teams fought intensely but fell short against the talented Big Red squads. Field hockey lost 0-7; girls tennis lost 0-7; volleyball lost 0-3; boys soccer lost 4-8; girls soccer lost 1-2. Girls soccer particularly performed well against a strong team, as Girls soccer coach Kristen Pixler said, “I continue to have great faith in this team. They are a connected unit that is willing to put the work in and they support one another every day and every minute of every game. From our swing players to our seniors, each player is invested in this team and knows we will compete in every match. This confidence and commitment is a game-changer. I couldn't be more proud of our team.” Though the loss is hard to process, especially in a MAPL matchup, Blue Storm athletes are moving on to their next game for a victory.  

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