Bruins Ruined? Not Yet

On our fourth annual Rivalry Day against Park, a Friends sports stats expert predicts the outcome


Luke Rollfinke

The Friends boys’ soccer team before a game

On the sidelines, the competitive spirit is almost palpable. The shriek of referees’ whistles can scarcely be heard over the cheering fans. But for three straight years, Friends has come up against Park in a “rivalry day” – and for three straight years, we have lost.

Started in 2016, Rivalry Day is now an annual event each October, when the two schools face off in many fall sports. It is held at each school in alternate years; this year, it’s Park’s turn. The rest of the year, our teams are pretty evenly matched.

But on Rivalry Days, Friends’ margin of defeat keeps growing. Whether the Quakers have cracked under pressure, or simply been outmatched, the Bruins seem to have our number.

Rivalry Day scores are calculated as follows: each game counts as a point, and a tie grants each team half a point. Park won 2.5-1.5 in 2016, bested us again 4-2 in 2017, and held its lead 4.5-2.5 in 2018.

This year, though, many at Friends are optimistic about our chances.

“Park’s not really our rival,” says senior and varsity soccer player Nick Millspaugh. He says he is confident that, this year, Friends is well above Park’s level, athletically speaking.

This confidence is rooted in the fact that, while Friends has never won the majority of games on a Rivalry Day, it has taken away key victories. Last year, both girls cross country and girls varsity soccer put up impressive wins. The Quakes have not gone down without a fight.

“It’s actually deeply painful to me to think of Park being worthy of being our rival,” says English teacher Rob Travieso, Friends class of ‘97.

Mr. Travieso played against weak Park soccer and lacrosse teams when he was a student here. Park was stronger in basketball, he remembers, but in other sports, “we were much, much, much, much better than them.”

“This could be the veils of time playing tricks on me, but in my memory, Park was always sort of pitiful,” he says. “We found their ‘Rah, rah’ mentality almost cute.”

Some Friends teams still have a stronger record overall.

“We have been pretty dominant in the spring and winter sports,” says Sam Burgunder, head of the sports statistics club Quakermetrics, which has access to Friend School sports records dating back almost 50 years. In sports like baseball, in which Friends has won the last four competitions, and men’s lacrosse, in which Friends has won three out of the last four, Park has posed little threat.

But the emotion and intensity behind the rivalry makes things unpredictable.

“It’s a toss-up of whoever wants it more” during Rivalry Days, Burgunder says. “Crazy things happen when people are really motivated.”

Screaming fans on both sides attest to this motivation. Meanwhile, our athletes try to focus and tune out the Bruins’ sideline.

Millspaugh says the roar of the crowds never gets in his head.

“It doesn’t really phase me,” he says. “When I’m going for a throw-in, there’s nothing going through my head besides getting it to [junior Ned] Forbush in the box.”

Peyton Williams, a Friends junior and a varsity soccer player, sees it differently. Fans have a huge impact on the game, she says.

“The game kind of sits on school support and school spirit,” says Williams. “Having the backup of the team [as well as] the student and parent section is always really, really nice.”

Upper School head Steve McManus appreciates it too.

“I think galvanizing the student body behind their classmates, and supporting the teams with a little bit [of] extra motivation, I think it’s great,” he says.

Mr. McManus has attended all three Rivalry Days. His favorite memory is from two years ago, when Friends´ men’s soccer team “absolutely hammered” Park in a 5-0 victory.

With another top-notch varsity team this year, we could be in for another men’s soccer victory.

Rivalry Day grew out of another Friends School tradition, Scarlet and Grey Day. Friends has always held a spirit day, named after the school colors.

Before the creation of Rivalry Day, Park was a frequent opponent on this day. Eventually, the two schools decided to make a stand-alone day dedicated to the rivalry between them.

When Friends hosts Rivalry Day, it is still on Scarlet and Grey Day. This year, since Park will host Rivalry Day, Scarlet and Grey Day will fall the week after.

McManus says he hopes that means Rivalry Day 2019 will serve as the “appetizer for spirit week.”

What better way to kick off a week of celebration than with a chance at our very first Rivalry Day victory?

We won’t have the luxuries of a home field advantage: the smoky scent of barbecue, or the familiar halftime treats from our Lower School bake sale.

Still, students say they’re feeling confident.

Men’s varsity soccer has won every time they’ve played at Park, says Millspaugh, so “I don’t see why this time would be any different.”

Things look good for our women’s varsity soccer too.

“We’ve gotten some really good players, key players on the field,” says Williams, “and even on the bench, actually.”

If these two teams can pull out victories, hopefully the rest will follow.

Burgunder says statistics predict that: “our boys soccer will continue to remain dominant, [and] our girls varsity soccer and girls tennis will both win.”

He says he fears our Field Hockey team has “little to no hope,” though, citing their three consecutive losses against Park.

No doubt there will be tight-scoring games and hard-fought matches down to the last second. Maybe this is the year we’ll come out on top.