After visiting Georgetown University, Bishop Miege senior Mackey Merrill knew that he had found a college that he could not only play lacrosse for, but that he was comfortable spending his next four years of his life at.
Merrill has played for the Shawnee Mission East lacrosse team since his freshman year. Bishop Miege does not have a lacrosse program. Lacrosse is not a high school sponsored sport in Kansas. In order to play lacrosse at the high school level, Miege lacrosse players, are permitted to compete as a part of the East Lacrosse Program.
During the past two summers, Merrill has been a part of a club team named Titanium Elite. The team is self proclaimed as “The Best of the Best of the Midwest.” Merrill has had to travel to every tournament that the team competes in, anywhere from the East Coast to Denver.
Titanium is how Merrill got recognized by Division I colleges. This recognition for a player from Kansas City is rare. This achievement has earned Merrill praise from fellow Players and coaches across the state and the nation. Merrill was named a high school All-American for his junior year.
Merrill received scholarship offers to play at Denver, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Bryant. All of these schools are ranked in the NCAA top 20, but none of them seemed right.
Merrill ultimately determined that Georgetown was the perfect fit for him. He was looking for a school with academic value as well, in case a career in lacrosse doesn’t pan out for him.
“Coming out of there with a diploma from Georgetown, I mean, you just can’t beat that,” Merrill said. “It’ll open up opportunities for the rest of my life.”
* * *
Merrill was living in Simsbury, CT in fifth grade, the first year he tried out for lacrosse. There were too many kids playing as midfielders and attackmen on the team, and he was already comfortable with defending; it was his childhood hockey position. In order to play, his coaches loaned him a six-foot shafted defensive stick. So, in order to adequately play the game, Merrill cut his defense stick down an extra four inches, making it easier to carry. But, Merrill still played his first game with a stick still taller than he was.
When Merrill moved to Kansas City in the seventh grade, he had grown into his defense stick. He caught the eye of Prairie Village Outlaws coach Chris Kliewer, who Merrill was trying out for.
“He stood out from the first time I saw him,” Kliewer said. “He definitely had some abilities that the other kids did not. Fundamentally, coming here from Connecticut in the east coast to Kansas City, it was very obvious.”
Two years later, when Merrill was a freshman, East’s lacrosse team was a building program, and had just hired a new head coach Chris Kliewer, a familiar face from Merrill’s previous team.
Merrill realized his potential when he became the only freshman to make the Varsity squad.
One game in particular stood out that year to him and his coaches: East was playing Olathe East, who have almost always beaten the Lancers in the past. That game, Mackey was marked up to guard Olathe East’s notorious attacker, Bryce Mcknielly.
“We dominated the game, and I took the ball away from him,” Merrill said. “It was fun because he was this big name senior and I was just coming in as a freshman.”
Over the next few years, Merrill would develop into a player who would receive scholarship offers from top division one schools. He would gain a love for the game and even a style of play.
“There’s something about [lacrosse],” Merrill said. “I don’t have to follow the rules like other sports. I can play at my own pace, and have my own style. I can be creative with who I pass to, how I pass to them, and what I do with the ball.”
Merrill can play every aspect of the game. He can take the ball away from a player, then sprint with the ball to the other side of the field, dodging defenders. He can overhead check, spin around defenders, and run defenders over. He can even score as a defender.
“[The coaches] can put him in on the others team’s best player and he always does what he is asked,” Kliewer Said. “His biggest thing isn’t one thing. It’s the fact that he can literally play all parts of the game.”
* * *
This upcoming year, the East lacrosse team will be looking for their fourth straight state title. Merrill, along with the other seniors, will be leading a team that is accustomed to winning, and is hungry for another championship. “We’re not losing this year,” Merrill said. “It started my freshman year and we don’t plan to end it now.”