When we roar the loudest: The Lions’ fiercest rivalries


Josh Underberg and Julia Goldberg

Jack Golub ‘15 can recall the court literally shaking from the cheers of the school’s fans during Buzzell 2014, a game against the school’s toughest rival, Riverdale, he said.

“We entered halftime down two, struggled to get any momentum, and then ripped off a game ending in 20-2,” he said. “We ran them out of the gym. I’ve never been prouder to represent HM,” he said.

The school’s rivalry with Riverdale is nothing new. “From the 1980s onwards, Riverdale has been seen as the ‘big bad,’” Archivist Hillary Matlin said.
However, each individual sport has maintained its own rivalries, she said.

For football and wrestling it was Riverdale, for soccer it was Hackley, and for girls’ basketball, Fieldston, Matlin said.

Registrar Chris Garrison ‘04 said he’s noticed that rivalries fluctuate throughout the years. “If we lose to a certain team in the playoffs the previous year, it’s a different vibe the next year,” he said. “The nature of high school sports is that sometimes a rivalry that’s really competitive one year just isn’t again the next year.”

Over the course of his time at the school, however, he has noticed that Riverdale and Trinity have remained competitive rivals, he said.

“Schools change, merge, open, and close with a lot of irregularity, so our rivalries are more flexible,” Matlin said. “I think because Ivy League schools have these historic rivalries, it’s almost ingrained in the culture of prep schools. In order for rivalries to last, the schools must be near equal in terms of skill, Matlin said.

“We used to race against New York Military School in the 1940s, but they’d kick our butt in track every year,” she said. “They were never considered a rival. Any time we won, it’d be a big deal, but the win would be considered a fluke,” she said.

The rivalry against Riverdale remains ever-present in football, because the team is fueled to go the extra mile to defeat the opponent, Jonas Jacobson (11) said. “Everyone becomes faster, stronger and more aggressive.”

Matches against Riverdale, as well as Trinity and Hackley, generate a new energy for the tennis team, in which everyone feels more passionate, Isha Agarwal (12) said. “We feel the adrenaline pumping and strive to go above and beyond to show those teams what HM is made of.”

Agarwal links the school’s rivalry with Riverdale to the school’s proximity as well as their attitude on the courts, she said. “People often compare the hill schools to each other, and it’s natural to defend Horace Mann in the face of those conversations,” she said.

When playing against Fieldston and Riverdale, fans of the away team are more willing to travel to neighboring schools, allowing for everybody to get involved, Coach Neil Berniker said.

Field hockey’s fiercest rivals are Fieldston and Riverdale, Abigail Morse (11) said.
“I think because of their proximity, a bunch of sports teams have rivalries with them,” she said.

These rivalries are strengthened for the field hockey team because of how close their games always are, she said. “Every time we play, we win or lose by a small margin,” Morse said.

At Homecoming, the field hockey team will face off against Fieldston. They’ve played them once this year, but they weren’t ready for the challenge, she said. “We’re more prepared now, and we really want to beat them.”

Playing on Alumni Field will certainly provide an advantage because the team will take the energy from the environment into the game to help them win, she said.

The school’s rivalry with Trinity, however, is the most iconic in terms of both athletics and academics, Agarwal said. “I feel like we’ve been directly competing with Trinity for years and feel a lot of school pride in games against them.”

One year ago, Trinity even dedicated a day of their spirit week to dressing like a Horace Mann student, which resulted in many students wearing trash bags with HM labels pinned to them. “Obviously Horace Mann students found out, and we were incredibly offended,” Agarwal said.

Harmony Li (10) believes the swim team’s rivalry with Trinity is the greatest because Trinity is one of the only teams that has been able to outscore the school’s team in recent years, she said.

Trinity is also the water polo team’s fiercest rival, Ari Salsberg (11) said. The most competitive game Salsberg can recall was a match against Trinity during Homecoming 2017, he said.

“We were down a couple of goals and managed to force overtime, thanks to a full pool shot from our goalie,” he said. “In overtime, one of our players hit a no-look, flip-behind the back shot to win it with three seconds left.”

Trinity has had a water polo team for longer than any other team in New York, so the team has been playing them for the longest time, he said.

Rivalries have never failed to push students in the past. Rivalries have and will continue to push sports teams to work harder in the future, Morse said.