Merchant sisters set for family reunion

Matt Greenstein

This weekendâÄôs three-game series between Minnesota and Northwestern will double as a family affair for the teamsâÄô coaching staffs. Assistant coach Jessica Merchant and volunteer assistant coach Macy Merchant will represent the Merchant family in the GophersâÄô dugout, while Brittini Merchant, a volunteer assistant coach at Northwestern, will be sitting in the opposite dugout. âÄúItâÄôs been circled [on the schedule] since I came here in the fall. It was one of the first weekends we all pointed out. A whole bunch of our family members are going to be here. ItâÄôs a pretty unique deal to be coaching against two sisters,âÄù Brittini Merchant said. With Merchants representing both sides, other family members coming to watch the game will have a decision to make. âÄúI think itâÄôs a struggle for all of our family right now. My little niece is just really confused about it. We tried to tell her that she [could] just wear whatever she wants âÄî neutral colors âÄî or she can have a tattoo of each team on each cheek,âÄù Macy Merchant said. Jessica Merchant said the crowd will consist of many family members and friends from her hometown, but it wonâÄôt be the first time the entourage has viewed a head-to-head matchup between the sisters. âÄúWe played Macy when she was a player at Central [Michigan] when Minnesota played them. I hated that. I wanted her to perform well, but here we were, playing them and IâÄôm like, âÄòWell, we need their leadoff hitter to go 0-for-4,âÄôâÄù Jessica Merchant said. The Merchants grew up in a competitive household, which has translated into coaching careers for the sisters. Jessica Merchant is older than Brittini and Macy, so she had an advantage in family competitions when the trio was younger. âÄúWeâÄôre sports junkies. We grew up at the softball field, so competition was a part of growing up, and it was a part of our bonding. IâÄôm quite a bit older than them, so it wasnâÄôt necessarily a fair fight. I blocked all their shots,âÄù Jessica Merchant said. A few days before their teams face off on the diamond, the sisters already started trash talking each other. âÄúWe donâÄôt get too trash-talky, but now that the date is approaching, we kind of give it to each other a little bit,âÄù Macy Merchant said. While the exchange between the sisters is fueled by their competitive upbringings, itâÄôs all in good fun. âÄúI donâÄôt think whether we win or they win, weâÄôre going to rub it in each otherâÄôs faces. WeâÄôre very competitive people, but at the same time, IâÄôm going to respect [them] and [theyâÄôre] going to respect me,âÄù Brittini Merchant said. Northwestern currently sits atop of the Big Ten standings, while the Gophers are fifth, adding an extra level of buildup for the series. But even though the standings show a not-so-tight series, the family anticipates a different story. âÄúThereâÄôs been a lot of hype around this in our family,âÄù Macy Merchant said. âÄúWe have friends back at home asking if we can just split to make it fair. At the end of the day, itâÄôs just really exciting. ItâÄôll be great to have the family around, and hopefully itâÄôs a good series.âÄù