‘You really need to commit full time to this sport’

Mercer Island’s Merritt makes an impact on and off the court.

Mercer Island High School’s Ally Merritt is making the most of her senior year in the sports realm by battling it out on the basketball court and voicing her opinion with the Social Justice Through Athletics Committee and Athletics Leadership Team.

The 5-foot-7 post player has been a member of the Islander varsity squad for the last three years and serves as a team captain this year along with senior Lauren Wainwright and junior Caley Newcomer.

Head coach Lindsey Blaine delivered high praise to Merritt, who helped lead the Islanders to a 51-43 victory over rival Bellevue on Jan. 7.

“She is a great leader and demonstrates leadership skills on and off the court,” said Blaine, whose team is scheduled to play Lake Washington away at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 12. The local squad was 2-6 overall at post time and had a pair of recent games canceled due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases throughout the region.

Merritt reciprocated Blaine’s comment by noting that the coach kept her affinity for basketball alive when she was hired.

“She’s such an amazing coach. She really understands what we face as female athletes. She herself is a Division I athlete, so she knows how to discipline teams and she knows how to get us better overall,” Merritt said as basketballs thumped in the background as practice tipped off on a recent day in the PEAK gymnasium.

Merritt looks forward to hitting the basketball court every year, and come spring, she’ll feel at home on the fastpitch softball diamond as well.

Basketball holds a special place in her heart since she follows in her mother’s footsteps on the hoops scene. Her mom played Division I ball at the University of Southern Florida and has instilled commitment and discipline in her daughter over the years.

“Being able to be playing with a high school team, especially as a captain and leading these other girls, has been really huge for me,” said Merritt, who is drawn in by the Islanders’ family atmosphere.

“You really need to commit full time to this sport,” said Merritt, echoing her mother’s advice. “It takes a lot of skill to be able to play a full game or even just half of a game. You need a lot of stamina to keep running.”

As co-chair of the school’s Social Justice Through Athletics Committee with junior teammate Jamison Drayton, Merritt said their current goal is spreading awareness of female athletics and drawing more people to games.

“The girls sports at our school, we never get any media coverage, we don’t really get talked about, we don’t really get fans,” she said. “It’s really sad to see, ‘cause we put in just as much work as the boys, and I think we’re just as good if not better.”

On the school front, Merritt is interested in science and hopes to focus on pre-med in college, move onto medical school and become a pediatrician.

The Reporter asked Merritt a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her life:

What’s your dream vacation spot?

I think right now it’s New Zealand. Me and my sister really want to go. My sister wants to actually move there once she’s out of college. I think it’s such a beautiful place.

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

I really like comedies. My favorite comedy I think is “Step Brothers.” I think that movie is hilarious. Or any movie with Will Ferrell I think is really funny.

What super power would you like to have?

I would like to have a super power where you can absorb anyone else’s power. Like if you touch someone, you can get their power for a little bit.

What skill would you like to learn?

I really want to learn how to speak languages fluently. Some people can pick up a language really quickly, and I wish I could do that. (She studied Spanish in school, and has taught herself some French and sign.)

How do you like to spend your spare time?

Well, I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I think most of it I spend with my dog. I really like animals, especially dogs and cats, and I have a dog and a cat. My cat’s an outdoor cat, so I almost never see her. But it was snowing and now with the rain, she’s inside a lot and she loves to cuddle up on my chest. I love that, it’s super cute.

What’s a skill that you have that somebody doesn’t know about? A hidden talent?

I’ve been playing piano since I was 5. I’m learning concert piano and so I do a lot of performances. I passed the national piano playing auditions through the American College of Musicians.