With the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference lacrosse playoffs slated to open May 1, Rob and Missy Aldave have a vested interest in how the postseason seedings stack up for their daughters, Paige and Andie.
For the Catonsville couple, it might be a little easier on their nervous systems if daughter Paige, a senior at St. Paul's School for Girls, and her sibling Andie, a sophomore at McDonogh School, can avoid another confrontation like the one they participated in earlier this month.
On that fateful day, their kids' respective teams met in Brooklandville as Paige's Gators attempted to derail Andie's Eagles' historic 121-game winning streak that now stands at 129 victories in a row. The visitors from Owings Mills, six-time defending conference champs, are the nation's consensus top-ranked prep squad.
During the game, things became even more tense for the sisters as they walked to the center of the field to take the draw against each other for several one-on-one battles.
For Rob and Missy, it was the ultimate in mixed emotions, a sort of sports Sophie's choice that made the outcome — a 15-11 McDonogh triumph — bittersweet.
Andie scored a goal in the Eagles' victory and Paige did not. But both played key roles in a game that was closer than expected.
"We didn't really talk when we were on the field," Paige said. "They only led, 12-11, with about four minutes to go. Still, it was fun because it's not very common for siblings to go to different schools. When we play them, we feel like we have nothing to lose and that there's a lot of pressure on them because they're trying to keep the winning streak."
St. Paul's coach Ali Jacobs said that Paige's "love for the game is infectious" and her leadership qualities keep the Gators on an even keel.
"Paige is a fierce competitor," Jacobs said. "She has that great balance of fun and, 'OK, we need to pick it up.' On the field, Paige is relentless when we need the ball back or off a draw. She loves working hard and never quits, no matter the circumstances."
As it stands now, St. Paul's hold the seventh seed in the 12-team conference. Should they advance, the Gators would not meet the top-seeded Eagles until the May 10 championship game at Gerstell Academy in Finksburg.
The parents don't have to worry about intra-family battles in college — yet. Until Paige heads to Gainesville to play for the University of Florida next season, oldest sister Maddy can claim her parents' full attention when the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays take the field at the elite Division I level.
At least that was the case before a knee injury and subsequent surgery Feb. 25 sidelined her for the rest of the season.
Although she has been cleared by the NCAA to play two more seasons, the decision still won't give Maddy the opportunity to compete against Andie, who has already committed to play for the University of Notre Dame.
Playing against Paige, at least in the Division I playoffs, is possible, as Hopkins is an independent and Florida is a member of the Big East Conference.
For the Aldaves, however, even something as intense as a head-to-head meeting cannot shatter the bond between them.
After all, they've experienced top-notch competition ever since their formative days playing for the Catonsville rec program. They are used to the pressure that most advanced athletes face as they climb through age-group and skill levels.
Maddy, for instance, started a trend that her sisters would follow by being allowed to play against older girls in rec competition.
All of the girls were fast learners who gravitated to playing club lacrosse. However, playing for the elite Towson-based Sky Walkers program meant lots of traveling away from Catonsville.
And that, in turn, led to the girls, and their parents, looking at school options not so close to home.
Maddy was the first to leave the 21228 ZIP code area, leaving St. Mark School to attend St. Paul's in middle school.
Paige graduated from St. Mark, then migrated to the Brooklandville private school in the ninth grade.
Andie took a different path than her sisters, opting to attend McDonogh in Owings Mills.
"Having the girls go to schools outside the area was a decision Rob and I put a lot of time into," said their mom, Missy Miller Aldave, an Archbishop Keough High grad.
A third-generation Catonsville resident whose parents and most of her siblings live within a 3-mile radius of her current family, she added that her fondness for her home town runs deep.
"Rob and I both love Catonsville, and we love coming home to Catonsville," she said. "But the kids have taken some risks by trying different things. Maddy was itching to try a new place, and when she looked at St. Paul's, she fell in love. I know it sounds a little hokey, but sometimes I think you need to open the door and take a peek at what else is out there — and that's what we did."
By the time she was a senior and a team captain at St. Paul's, Maddy had caught the eye of Hopkins coach Janine Tucker.
Until her knee injury in the third game of the year, the junior had worked her way into the starting attack rotation for the Blue Jays.
"Maddy's game has grown and developed so much," Tucker said. "She regrouped and worked so hard to get where she is. Now, she's working just as hard so she can be ready to go again in the fall. I think the injury is going to make her that much tougher."
Maddy said she eyed filling a starting role after playing 24 games and scoring seven goals in her first two seasons at Hopkins.
"I knew we had a couple of spots open on attack," she said. "I worked my way up.
"I'm still part of the team, even though I'm injured," she said. "Coach Tucker told me I know the offense as well or better than the coaches, so I help out any way I can. I can't run, but I can shoot on our goalies."
Maddy added that she missed her sisters' showdown and some of the attending drama.
"They were sending some funny snap chats back and forth," she said. "I'm just glad they're still talking to one another."
The siblings' competitive attitudes were "fostered" by their parents, Maddy said.
"I still remember my dad making us stick to a commitment when we were playing Catonsville Rec," she said about Rob, a sales manager with Martin Marietta and a former swimmer at John Carroll University in Cleveland after graduating from Mount St. Joseph High School. "My parents taught us what it is to be determined and driven."
While the older Aldave girls are accomplished in their own right, Andie may be on an even faster track. For one thing, she was a starter on the Eagles' unbeaten field hockey team last fall.
Her ability to excel in a bigger role for the lacrosse team after McDonogh standout Olivia Jenner was injured helped the Eagles wallop Virginia's Bishop Ireton, the team ranked No. 2 in most national polls, 14-4.
"Andie was phenomenal in that game," McDonogh coach Chris Robinson said. "She took the draw and did a lot of other thing as well. She's an excellent player, and, even though she has started all year for us, she may be even a little under-utilized for us."
The season will be an extended one for the sophomore, who will play for the U.S. team in the Under-19 Federation of International Lacrosse World Lacrosse Championships in Scotland this summer. She is one of only four Baltimore-area players to earn a spot on the team.
Missy Aldave said her kids had very little choice about what pastimes they would embrace.
"I figured playing sports is what I know and what I'm comfortable with," said Missy, who sells residential real estate. "I hope that doesn't make me sound like a terrible mom. But, as parents, we've had incredible experiences. It's been about creating friendships and challenging the kids in pressure situations. It's really worked out well for the girls, and us."