By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
Atlantic County high school sports fans — and fans throughout South Jersey, for that matter — are very familiar with the surnames Mackler, Master and Fader. No, it’s not a law firm — although the Mackler name is the “M” in GMS Law — but rather an Atlantic City High School sports legacy that the younger siblings are now carrying on.
Hannah Mackler was a star field hockey player for the Vikings and now is attending the University of Delaware; Josephine Mackler was a part of the Vikings’ crew and swimming teams during her prep days; Ryan Fader helped lead the A.C. boys basketball team to a state championship berth during his high school days and then attended Duke University; and Megan Master led the Cape-Atlantic League in strikeouts her senior year as a softball pitcher and is continuing her career at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Ella Mackler, one of only three seniors on the Atlantic City field hockey team, is one of the best defenders in the Cape-Atlantic League. (Photo by Benjamin Hale Photography)


The younger sisters of those star athletes have been making names for themselves the past four years and now are senior captains on a Vikings field hockey team that is in contention for a state playoff berth once again under sixth-year head coach Ali Marsini, who herself was a standout player at Mainland during her high school days, when she was known by her maiden name of Juliano. Ella Mackler is one of the best defenders in the CAL who also played a couple years of lacrosse, Alex Fader is one of the top players on Atlantic City’s girls basketball team and Katie Master is among the best softball players in the CAL and recently received a scholarship offer from Central Connecticut State, where she plans to sign her National Letter of Intent.
“We only have three seniors this year, which is the lowest number we’ve had in my six years, but even though they are few they have a big presence both on and off the field. All three of them have been playing varsity since their freshman year and they are a huge part of this team. They know how we like to run things and they are a huge help to me. They play other sports, too, are involved in a lot of other things and are all great students,” Marsini said. “Katie’s biggest thing is softball. She made it clear to me that’s her main thing but she still wants to play field hockey because she loves it. She said there might be times where she had to go on college visits and different things like that, but she’s been great with it. Softball is her thing, but she’s been a huge part of the field hockey program as well. And it’s the same thing with Alex, who plays basketball. Both of them do things year-round. Katie’s playing softball all year and going to tournaments on weekends, so it’s a lot for them.
“All three of them have older siblings who were standouts at Atlantic City, so it’s nice to have the same families back with me again,” she added. “I’ve had a Mackler since I started coaching and it’s been great to build relationships, not only with them but with their families as well.”

Alex Fader is a solid midfielder for the Vikings and also one of the leaders of the girls basketball program. (Photo by Benjamin Hale Photography)


Heading into October, Atlantic City was right in the middle of the standings in the very competitive CAL American Conference at 5-3-1, behind stalwarts such as Ocean City, Millville and Egg Harbor Township and ahead of other solid programs like Mainland Regional and Absegami. If the Vikings play well this month they should be able to secure a state playoff berth once again. They enjoyed a four-game winning streak in the middle of September that included a signature win over Mainland, 4-3, as well as victories over Absegami, Bridgeton and Winslow, and after a tough 6-0 loss to EHT the Vikings bounced back with a 2-0 win over Vineland. Master is one of the team’s leading scorers while Fader holds down the midfield and Mackler captains the defensive unit.
“I just always know I have to go 100 percent, and by showing that everyone will follow and give 100 percent,” Master said. “For myself, I just try to be the best I can be and I encourage others to do that as well. Going 100 percent in practice and putting all the work you possibly can in gets you to the point where you want to be.”
“All of us are very competitive people so we were like, ‘this is our senior year and we might not play field hockey again after this, so we might as well go all out and try to finish this season with a bang,’” Fader said. “We don’t mind being the underdog and sneaking up on people. When we come out and beat teams like Mainland, it’s just amazing.”
“Individually, our skills have developed a lot. (A few years ago) we weren’t as good as we are now. And as a team, me and Alex on defense really connect well, and Katie is also on the left side with me, so we all just have this connection and we use that to sort of be the core to help everyone else, talking and getting everyone together and up the field,” Mackler added. “It’s such a good feeling to know that all your hard work is paying off — all the practices, all the early mornings are finally starting to pay off.”
Coming into high school with well known older siblings isn’t easy for any athlete, but these three seniors have created their own identity and in some ways are different than their brothers or sisters, although equally talented. In softball, Master is known as a powerful hitter, where as Megan — and mom, Margie (A.C. High Hall-of-Fame member) — were known more for their pitching prowess. And Alex is much more quiet and reserved than older brother Ryan.
“I don’t think I can ever top my mom, but that’s OK. We’re all different players than our siblings. I’m not a pitcher, I know I can’t be like Megan,” Master said.
Added Alex, “I’ll always be called ‘little Fader.’ It’s good, though, because when you come into high school everyone knows you, but you get a chance to build your own image.”
What makes this such a special group of seniors for Marsini — aside from the fact that they are the only three seniors on the team — is their family background. All three are the children of highly successful parents, and perhaps that’s where they get their drive and motivation. Mike Mackler is a partner at GMS Law and Ella’s mom, Rina, runs Make It Pop, a successful advertising agency in Atlantic City. Glenn Master handles the financial accounts at the Ocean City Free Public Library and Margie Master is a well respected teacher in Ventnor. Keith Fader has had a long and successful career in advertising and Alex’s mom, Susan, works for AtlantiCare.

Katie Master is the team’s leading scorer and also a standout of the softball field. She recently gave a verbal commitment to play college softball at Central Connecticut State, an NCAA Division I program. (Photo by Benjamin Hale Photography)


“Ella is a stoic leader and Katie likes to get things done, and Alex, she is just a great leader on the field. She knows so much about the sport and leads by example. All of them have successful parents, great families and great siblings, and you can tell sports have been an important part of their upbringing. Every year I say, ‘wow, how am I going to replace these seniors?’ Not only do we build strong relationships with them but they make up a huge part of the culture at our school and in our program,” Marsini said. “To lose these three is going to be really hard. Ella and Alex have been huge defenders for us and Katie has been our leading goal scorer, so to lose all of them will be a big challenge. All three of them make up different parts of the team.”
Marsini said she’s just hoping her younger players can watch and learn from these three how to become impact players on the varsity level.
“The younger girls watch them on the field and see what they are all about,” she said. “Especially with Ella and Alex on defense, it’s kind of a science that we’ve been building back there and they lead by example. They show the younger kids how it’s supposed to get done.”
What this season holds for the Vikings is yet to be determined, but Mackler, Master and Fader are just trying to enjoy every minute of it. This is the last time all three will be teammates, so they are soaking in the experience, one that has led them to become great friends outside of high school sports.
“Freshman year, I knew Alex but I didn’t really know Ella, but through the years we’ve gotten really close,” Master said.
“I wouldn’t have half the friends I have now without the field hockey team. I’ve met some of my best friends through it and you build the best relationships,” Mackler added. “I just want to have a good season and win as many games as we can, and in the games we lose just play as hard as we can.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays