Ben Woods once called Maggie MacKeever a “once-in-a-coach’s-career” caliber of tennis player. For Potomac and the Churchill community, however, the MacKeevers are an ongoing three-generation story.
Maggie’s mother Lynne Rafferty graduated from Churchill in 1973; the same year Maggie’s father Duncan MacKeever graduated from Walt Whitman High School. “Back in our day, we didn’t even know Churchill existed — it was out in the country somewhere,” Duncan said, joking, but he added more seriously, “Whitman and Churchill now are very, very similar, but back then there was a marked difference.”
Lynne’s parents, Corrine and Joseph Rafferty, were born in Washington, D.C., and eventually moved to Potomac. At Churchill, Lynne was a cheerleader. She played tennis, but it wasn’t a varsity sport then. “You could play basketball or field hockey, neither of which I was cut out for,” she said.
One of her teachers was Andy White, a social studies teacher and cross country coach who still teaches at Churchill. “It’s something really special about the school,” Lynne said. “Having your kids taught by teachers you were taught by is spectacular.”
Lynne said that while times have changed, and Churchill is bigger than it was in the 1970s, it’s not all that different from the school she attended. The town has changed noticeably, though. “It was a different Potomac — it was smaller and quieter,” Lynne said.
Duncan MacKeever played varsity tennis for Whitman. “At that time, Whitman was a tennis dynasty,” he said; the team won the county title for nearly 10 years. Duncan MacKeever also played on the U.S. Tennis Association junior circuit.
Duncan MacKeever and Lynne Rafferty didn’t meet until they were undergraduates at the University of Maryland. “No ‘high school sweethearts’ stories,” he said.
Upon graduation, the MacKeevers considered moving to Charleston, S.C., but Duncan had a job offer with the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. He is now president of Crystal Pools, the family’s swimming pool contracting business. Lynne taught at Ritchie Park Elementary School in Rockville for five years until their son Sean MacKeever, now 23, was born, followed by Kelly MacKeever, now 21, then Maggie, now a senior at Churchill.
RAFFERTY WAS a well-known name at Churchill — Lynne had numerous cousins who went to school there. Her sister Peggy Fahey attended Whitman, but now works as a counselor at Churchill.
“Never tell them you’re a Rafferty,” Lynne would joke with Maggie, but by the time Maggie reached high school in 2002, she had already forged a name for herself in several sports.
Until she turned 14, Maggie played on the Bethesda Legend, a Division 2 soccer team that was otherwise all boys. Her teammates included current Churchill seniors Eric Stromberg and Greg McGinnis, and ‘05 graduate Ryan Studner.
“That was fun, but it got too tough for me after awhile,” Maggie said.
Duncan MacKeever doesn’t remember it that way. “Some of the boys would be intimidated to go up to the ball when she had it,” he said.
By Maggie’s middle school years, it was growing more clear that tennis was her sport. Duncan and Lynne encouraged her to take up the sport, more for its lifelong benefits than as a meal ticket to college.
“It’s not just about the high school stuff, the college stuff,” Duncan MacKeever said. Early in Maggie’s high school years, Duncan told her, “If I could see you burning out, I’d take your racket away right away, so you can keep playing it [later in] life.”
As a freshman in 2002, Maggie immediately claimed the varsity tennis team’s top singles spot. Through four varsity seasons, she never lost to a county opponent and won two state singles championships. She played junior varsity basketball as a freshman, but like soccer, she gave it up to make a year-round commitment to tennis. Maggie and her parents agree that the environment on the varsity team made the sacrifices easier.
“I just like the team aspect of [varsity tennis],” Maggie said. “I liked playing soccer and basketball, and ever since I gave that up … it’s been a lot of fun to have teammates who help pump you up.”
“For her, this has been so fun,” Lynne MacKeever said. “She works her butt off outside [varsity] without a lot of recognition. Here she can go out and represent the school. … She said, ‘Yeah, this is a really important thing to me.”
“When she was a freshman … she was taken aboard and was shepherded by the older group,” Duncan MacKeever said. “This year, you’ve got to be the cheerleader, you have to be the one who brings all the things you had as a freshman to the girls who are new here. … You have to be the one to continue the dynasty.”
Churchill’s tennis season concludes with the county tournament in the upcoming week. Maggie intends to play Division I tennis in college and spent the fall on several recruiting visits. Before she graduates, though, she hasn’t ruled out a return to basketball; varsity tryouts start begin on Nov. 15.