Team members often refer to their on-field peers as their sisters or brothers. After all, the makeup of a team somewhat emulates that of a family. When it comes to Newtown’s Wombat Sisterhood youth soccer squad, which recently completed its season, many of the girls can accurately refer to each other as sisters.
The Wombat Sisterhood recreation U14 team has five sets of sisters. There are 19 girls on the roster, so more than half of the lineup is made up of sets of siblings.
Ironically, the team took on its oh so appropriate name even before any of these sister tandems laced up the cleats for the Wombat Sisterhood. That’s right, two years ago when Michael Sepp and Billy Shanks started coaching what was a U10 team (their daughters Hannah Sepp and Emma Shanks remain on the squad) there were no sisters in place.
The team has always focused on togetherness, hence the Sisterhood part of the name, and what the coaches refer to as “girl empowerment.” Sepp says its important to keep the confidence of developing girls up during their late preteen and early teenage years. “We make each one of them feel great about themselves,” he said.
This year the squad bumped up to the U14 level and took on some new players, including all of those siblings: Brigitte and Sydney Marino, Paige and Rosie Simms, Calista and Kylie Giroux, Alexandra and Janyce Toth, and Shauna and Vanessa Tucker. The other “sisters” on this team are Eirenie Athanasoulis, Linda Bamova, Annie Davidow, Leah McCafferty, Natalene Sim, Alexandra Tassiello, Lin Vitarbo and, of course, the coaches’ daughters.
Another important piece the Wombat Sisterhood soccer puzzle is Megan Meyer, a soon-to-be senior at Newtown High School, who used to play the game and wanted to get involved with coaching. She adds the female perspective to the coaching staff, something Sepp and Shanks know is valuable for instructing a large group of girls.
“It’s a really fun experience coaching them, and seeing them grow,” Meyer said. “I love them all.”
Keeping true to her team name, Janyce Toth, the goalkeeper, was recruited to join a travel team but agreed to play only if she could also continue to remain on the Wombat Sisterhood squad.
“These girls really support each other,” Shanks said.
The girls enjoy putting their familiarity and skill together on the field, and they posted a winning record this past season. The coaches, too, get a kick out of life as members of Wombat Sisterhood.
“It’s gratifying. It’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done,” said Sepp, adding that he’s been close friends with Shanks for a long time.
Sepp notes that some of the players will move on to the high school level but he has taught the girls that they’ll always be Wombats and they should be there for each other even after moving on to different teams.
Although siblings, generally speaking, don’t get along all of the time, things for these girls are smooth when they’re on the soccer field. While there is no battle for use of the bathroom as there may be at home, field time is at a premium with such a large roster.
“Everybody gets equal time. There’s no fighting or quarrels. They all totally enjoy it together,” Sepp said.
As a matter of fact, the sisters enjoy playing against each other in practice, making for an easy time of dividing up teams, Shanks notes.
“It’s great because in scrimmages they never want to play on the same side. They always want to match up against each other,” Shanks added.
That doesn’t mean the siblings don’t enjoy working together during drills and in games. They certainly do.
“It’s fun playing with our sisters. We get to practice together,” Shauna Tucker said.
“I think it’s really cool actually,” Calista Giroux added.