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STEPHENS CITY – It’s a sight Rebekah Max has enjoyed many times from her spot in goal on the soccer field.
The sequence often begins with Rebekah’s older sister Hannah controlling the ball from her center attacking midfielder spot, pushing their team’s attack toward the opposing team’s net. A fake from Hannah often comes next, followed by a pass to Rebekah’s twin sister Sarah, who has used her speed to separate herself from opposing defenders. It usually ends with one of them scoring a goal, and it always shows off the chemistry that can only be built from years of sharing the same the field.
“They just know where each other is all the time,” Rebekah said earlier this week. “It’s impressive.”
The three Max sisters have played on the same soccer team for years. Hannah, the oldest by two years, began playing when she was in first grade and was later joined by her twin sisters. It began as a family affair, on a recreational team coached by their father, Derrick. For a handful of years the trio has also played for the ODFC Twisters in Loudoun County.
For the first time last spring the homeschooled sisters from Round Hill donned school uniforms, the green and white jerseys of Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy. They became immediate stars.
Sharpened by their years of playing experience – early on they played against the boys on their older brother’s soccer team, and Rebekah and Sarah regularly compete with girls two years older to play alongside Hannah – the trio wreaked havoc on most of SVCA’s opponents.
Hannah finished her junior season last spring with 37 goals, leading the Patriots and all local soccer players in 2016, and was named a National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) All-American. Sarah, a forward, scored 31 goals as a freshman, providing head coach Dustin Wheelock with a scoring tandem unlike any other he’s had at SVCA.
While her sisters combined to score 68 of the Patriots’ 101 goals, along with 32 assists, in 2016, Rebekah registered 79 saves and 10 shutouts as SVCA’s goalkeeper.
All three helped lead the Patriots to a 17-7-3 record, a Mason-Dixon Christian Conference championship and a NACA Division 2 title.
“Their skill is incredible,” Wheelock said of the Max sisters, who are prepping for their second season with SVCA this spring, Hannah as a senior and Rebekah and Sarah as sophomores.
“They’re so selfless with the ball. They’re encouraging, they talk a lot, really direct people on the field well and so we’re able to put it into their feet and they’re able to do something positive with it.”
Each of the three sisters brings something different to the soccer field.
Hannah is the facilitator, the player who is smooth with the ball at her feet and who enjoys scanning the field while searching for an opening through which to feed passes to her teammates.
“She’s very good at like knowing where to place the ball and what good runs our players should be making,” Sarah said of her older sister. “So sometimes the glory’s on her because she makes everybody around her so much better, giving good passes, giving good runs.”
Sarah is the self-proclaimed speedster of the trio, a boast she joked might draw the ire of Hannah, although Rebekah backed up the statement by adding that her twin sister is “definitely the fastest” of the group.
Wheelock called Sarah a “powerhouse” who possesses a high intensity when she’s in control of the ball and is always looking to score a goal. He also noted Rebekah’s intelligence in goal, her understanding of angles and ability to effectively communicate with the defenders playing along the back line.
“They’re all fearless,” Wheelock said, “just 100 percent fearless.”
Placing all three in a position to attack opposing defenses presents SVCA with a lethal scoring combination. Although Rebekah spends most of her time at goalkeeper, she started last season at striker and was SVCA’s leading goal scorer before Wheelock was forced to move her back to goalie. She scored 10 goals on 19 shots in 2016 and added six assists.
Chemistry plays a big role in the success each has on the soccer field – “We just kind of know how each other plays,” Hannah said – but they also push each other to get better.
“It’s fun. We kind of support each other but also we’re probably each other’s biggest critics too,” Hannah said. “…It’s good knowing the mistakes we’re making so we can put them all out there together but also encourage each other.”
Sarah, who led the Patriots in assists (17) last season and finished 10 points behind Hannah for the team lead, said she’s always trying to match her older sister.
“I’ve always looked up to her as a soccer player, you know, and I definitely wanna compete with her because she’s better than me, so if I can compete with her and play to her level then I’m obviously getting better,” Sarah said. “So, yeah, that’s always fun. And then with Rebekah whenever we play at home together I try to score on her a lot, which is good because she’s a really good goalie. It gets me better too, like bettering my shots.”
And when both Hannah and Sarah are improving and pouring goals into the opposing team’s net, it’s bringing a smile to Rebekah’s face.
“It’s super nice just when the first goal’s in the net. I’m just like alright, I can relax a little bit, be a little nicer to my defenders,” said Rebekah, who allowed just 17 goals last season.
“It definitely takes some pressure off me. Just makes me proud, you know, those are my sisters.”
The Max sisters will lead SVCA into the 2017 season with goals to improve on last season’s achievements by winning a NACA Division 1 championship and beating the area’s public high schools (the Patriots are scheduled to play James Wood, John Handley and Sherando this spring; they went 1-3-1 against those schools last season).
Wheelock said SVCA lost just two seniors from last year’s team and returns a bulk of that squad this spring. The Patriots open the 2017 season with a home match against James Wood on March 21.
Hannah said she was impressed how quickly the Patriots meshed last season and hopes to lead the charge in establishing a similar rapport with the new additions to the squad this year.
“Just encouraging them but also showing them the team camaraderie we had before, last season, on the field and off the field,” Hannah said, “so hopefully this year we can have that same bond on and off the field where we’re playing well together and seeing the right stuff on the field.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org