Mertz, Segan was the perfect one-two punch
It's hard not to take notice of Sabrina Mertz's and Sarah Segan's relationship.
The two spent nearly every high school sports season competing with one another, by each other's side. The 2013 track and field season was the exception, as Segan didn't take on the sport until 2014. But for all four years, it was soccer in the spring and basketball in the winter, with Mertz and Segan side by side. The two even grew up playing on similar youth teams.
Their on-the-court chemistry is one thing, but their relationship goes way beyond the playing field, court and track. And the two think it's that aspect of their bond that has molded them into such great teammates and friends.
The two shared plenty of success and accomplishments in 2014-15 across all three sports; it's only right that both earned the title of Northwestern Press Female Athlete of the Year.
"I think it's what made us so successful because both of us have pushed each other in every sport that we played," Mertz said. "It's not about the competition all of the time; it's more about the team and us getting better. I think if we didn't have each other, I don't think we would be where we are today."
"We're obviously really close and we're really good friends," Segan said. "It really helped on the field. We know that we're competitive, so whatever we do we try to compete against each other. But it's in a good way, not a hatred way. We love each other. It really pushes us to be the best athletes we could be."
Their final high school season began with Northwestern's best soccer season in program history.
Segan and Mertz, along with a highly talented senior class, guided the Tigers to Colonial League and district championships for the second-straight year. That run advanced all the way until the PIAA semifinals, the furthest any Northwestern soccer team has ever made it.
"Each year we kept getting better and better," said Mertz, who tallied 18 goals and 12 assists as a senior (42 goals, 39 assists for career). "In our junior year we made it to the [state] quarterfinals. Senior year, we just wanted to make it further than that as much as we can."
The Tigers did make it a game further, bowing out to eventual-champion Villa Joseph Marie, 3-0. And while there were tears on that day, it was a historic moment for everyone involved.
"In the beginning of the season, that's kind of what you hope for - to get the league title, get to districts, and see how far you can get in states," Segan said after finishing with 38 goals in the fall and a staggering 139 in her career. "Semifinals is pretty far, so I'm really proud of everyone for that."
In all, the duo helped Northwestern reach seven soccer championship games and win four titles.
"I think that it being our senior year, to be able to win leagues and districts for soccer was really special," Mertz said. "You know it's your last year, and you know you want to end with a bang. We were able to do that. You don't want to let your team down being the oldest people."
Soccer brought plenty of success as the Tigers lost just two games in 2014, but basketball was a different story.
Northwestern battled a rough start to the season and dropped their first three conference games.
The sprint out of the gate was a bit unconventional than recent years, but Northwestern was able to right the ship when needed most for a lengthy playoff push to the Colonial League title game as the tournament's No. 5 seed.
"This season for basketball has been the hardest," said Segan, who scored 285 total points in 2015. "Normally in the past with like Sara Jones and everyone, there weren't any hard struggles. This year there was a lot of ups and downs, but it really made us get together as a team more. No one really expected us to be in the league final, and the fact that we got there was absolutely incredible."
Mertz scored 305 points in her final season, and both girls finished 2015 by scoring just over 11 points per game a piece. Both also eclipsed the 900-point mark for their careers.
"It's still one of my favorite sports, and I love the game," Mertz said. "I love how fast-paced it is. We had a lot of good players on that team. This year we overcame a lot of adversity, and I thought that made it even better when we were able to go to the league final again."
Northwestern won the Colonial League title against Southern Lehigh when the two were juniors.
The track and field season produced even more hardware for Mertz, Segan and the Tigers. The Tigers finished the regular season unbeaten at 11-0, but there were plenty of individual accomplishments for the two track stars.
In the Colonial League Meet, the two had a part in helping three relay teams win medals, as well as their medal apperances in individual events. Segan took third at districts in the 800-meter run, while both ran a leg in the 1600- and 3200-meter relay teams that took first and second, respectively.
"It's just great because you know you have to push hard because it's not just for yourself, it's for your team," Segan said. "You don't want to be the weak link, and you really have to work hard."
"Track is really a different sport because it's more individual stuff," Mertz said. "But that's why I really love being a part of the relay teams; it feels more like a team atmosphere.
The state track meet capped their high school playing days together, and with the two heading in different directions for their collegiate careers, it's unsure if they'll ever suit up together again.
But while that's still a mystery, what is clear is the lasting impact they've had at Northwestern.
"She is one of my best friends," Mertz said. "It's awesome to enjoy the ride, all of these moments through high school, and the championships I've won with her by my side.
"I really wouldn't want to have shared it with anyone else. Once we won that, we knew that all of our hard work, us pushing each other, and how many times we practiced and played, it was all worth it to hang those gold medals around our heads. It was more than that. It was for the team, the experience and enjoy the moment."
Segan reports to the College of William and Mary on July 30. Mertz starts at Lehigh University the following week, beginning on August 6.