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Fighting futbol-ers

Bauhinia Chen ‘26 

Nov 13, 2023

Mercersburg Academy’s boys soccer has had a season fraught with ups and downs. Despite the setbacks, the team’s doggedness bolstered them in persevering through hardships and reaching new heights. Last Saturday, they tied 0-0 in a hard-fought game against rival Hill School. 

The team has seen notable changes take place between last season and this season,most notably a new head coach, Skyler Clark. “Our assistant this year, Will Slater, who has been nothing short of excellent, was working with Rivers and Trails last fall. As for the players, we have many new faces on the squad from each grade. I am happy with every person we have on this team,” said Clark. 

Clark praised the players for their laudable progression: “This team has come a long way since the beginning. Early in the season, we had some trouble playing up to our standards against teams that we should beat on paper.” 

He continued, “This team has been through a lot. We are no strangers to adversity. Through those challenges, we have come together as a group.” 

Slater added, “We have a young team, and Coach Clark and I are both new to our respective roles, so we’ve been growing together as a program. That process can be frustrating and full of setbacks, but the boys have truly progressed, and that’s a credit to their effort and desire to improve.” 

Throughout the season, several players were beset with injuries, which posed hindrances to the team. “Dean Tae ’24 is out, Kevin Malo ’24 started with an injured foot, and Dylan Stiffler ’24 hurt his ankle,” said Gaven McGuire ’26. 

The team also had difficulty when up against aggressive opponents. Gabe McGuire ’24 said, “There have been some very competitive teams on our schedule like The Kiski School and [national number one] The Pennington School. It was very challenging to play against teams of that caliber, but at the same time it was very developmental for us.”

Simon Brennan ’26 said, “One of the greatest challenges we faced was facing big losses towards the start of the season. We made use of our losses by turning them into lessons to learn from. Towards the end, we found trust in one another, which helped us grow as a team.”

Max Zhang ‘26 added, “In some of our previous games, we failed to seize opportunities. We were also lax in defense and let in some cheap goals.” 

The team’s rapport and dynamic have been integral to its development. “Our strongest aspect is our collaboration and energy. We are a very tight-knit group and show a lot of spirit to each other,” said McGuire. 

Ewan McDowell ’27 agreed, “I think the team dynamic is really good. We all like each other for who we are, and practice is always enjoyable.” 

Brennan added, “Everyone is working well together. We have great chemistry on and off the field.”

Slater highlighted the role of leadership, which served to reinforce the grit and tenacity of the players. “I’m remarkably proud of this group’s emotional strength and vulnerability, much of which stems from our leaders. Clark wears his heart on his sleeve. You always see and feel how much he cares. Very few people lead as well as our captain, Dylan Stiffler ’24. He is the team’s emotional, technical, and tactical leader, a burden he shares with our great group of seniors.” 

As the season is coming to a close, coaches and players aspire to end it on a high note with exuberant zeal. “Our biggest goal is to make the last few weeks memorable," said Clark, "To us, that means playing at our highest level, enjoying each other's company on and off the field, and winning as many games as possible." 

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