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Soccer Sisters


Coaches often work to build a team that feels like family. For six soccer Lady Liberators, it is family. Three sets of sisters currently suit up for Bolivar and at times this season, they’ve comprised over half of the 11 positions on the field. With girls representing all four grade levels at BHS, junior Ellen Garber, freshman Sophia Garber, senior Ese Jones, junior Julia Jones, senior Ellie Thomas, and sophomore Josie Thomas are soaking up this one season all six get to share.

“We’ve all grown up playing together and watching each other play and supporting each other at games,” said Ellie Thomas, “but this is the first time that every single one of us gets to play together and play for the same team.”

The sisters all said they can relate to one another but that they each bring something different to the team.

“The Jones girls are very funny and they bring a lot of laughter to the team and they always make everybody laugh,” said Ellen Garber, “and the Thomas girls are very encouraging and very welcoming and they always make people feel like they belong.”

After some back-and-forth teasing with her sister, Julia Jones smiled and added, “the Garber girls show you what actual sisters are supposed to be like and treat each other right.”

The sister sets each have their unique relationships and they all said their individual personalities still come through in games, but the dynamics in their relationship shift some when they hit the pitch.

“I think we have a pretty normal sisterly relationship,” said Sophia Garber. “We have our roller coaster moments. But on the field I think we’re normally nicer than we are at home.”

Older sister Ellen Garber agreed, “I feel like on the soccer field we have the one goal of we want to work well as a team and we want to win.”

Ellie Thomas described a similar perspective. “Even if Josie and I are mad at each other before the games, that automatically goes away when we get on the field and then after the game we just forget what happened. Usually soccer can help fix any problems that we had.”

Although all three of the younger sisters claimed the older ones pick on them, the younger Garber and Thomas sisters agreed their older sisters have and will defend them in games if the freshman and sophomore are on the receiving end of rough play dished out by someone else.

The Jones sisters said they have a different style. “My relationship with Ese on the field is completely different than off the field,” said Julia Jones, “because on the field she doesn’t acknowledge that I’m alive.”

Older sister agrees. “It’s not that I’m trying to ignore her. It’s just that I am in the zone and I don’t actually acknowledge that she’s my sister on the field,” said Ese Jones. “I don’t really need to defend her because she can take on anybody she wants.”

All three younger sisters described their older sisters in the same way: louder and more competitive. The older sisters agreed.

“I am more likely to encourage Sophia,” said Ellen Garber, “but sometimes I will get a little angry because it’s just what siblings do and sometimes the game will change everybody’s mood and will make everybody a little bit more sassy.”

In firstborn fashion, Ellie Thomas added, “I’m more likely to direct Josie on the field because that’s what I spent my whole life doing.”

Both the older Garber and Thomas sisters, likewise, attributed similar qualities to their younger sisters. “Josie is more collected on the field,” said Ellie Thomas. “She keeps her emotions in check better than I do.”

Ellen Garber agreed saying, “Sophia is more calm and is not as loud.”

Ese Jones had a different take on her sister. “Julia is definitely more fun than me,” she said. “She makes the game very interesting and what she does on the field is funny. There’s definitely never a dull moment.”

Sharing laughs and getting in a few jabs, each of the six still acknowledged qualities she admires in her own sister.

“Ellie is very wise when it comes to the game and she just knows where all the good passes are,” said Josie Thomas. “She knows how the game works and she can visualize plays very well. She’s a center mid, she gets shoved a lot and she never gives up and always keeps fighting for the ball. Even if others are bigger than her.”

Older sister Ellie Thomas reflected on her sister’s growth. “I’m proud of Josie for growing in her confidence and her skill over this last year. She didn’t think she deserved a spot but now she’s earned a full starting varsity spot after part time last season.”

Ellen Garber said she’s also proud to share a spot in the starting line up with her little sister. “I am most proud of my sister for being the only varsity starting freshman this year.”

The freshman forward, Sophia Garber, got her first varsity goal before her older sister and said celebrating with Ellen after that goal is her favorite soccer memory. She also recognized the offensive success of her sister who spends most of the game protecting the back line. “I am proud of Ellen because she scored her first varsity goal this season, even though she’s a defender.”

The Jones sisters share the defensive end and each acknowledged how the success of the other impacts her own position. “I’m proud of Julia for stepping in as our goalkeeper when our other two goalkeepers were out,” said Ese Jones. “She stepped up and was there for our team and had some big saves. My favorite memory was in the West Plains game when Julia made that baller save.”

When she does play in goal, Julia Jones said she’s happy to have her older sister on the line between her and the ball. “She can be the number one defender so that when I am back there in goal I don’t have to do anything.”

Like most siblings, the girls also speculated about who is the favorite.

“My parents’ favorite child is Sophia 100% because she is the perfect little angel child and she never does anything wrong,” said Ellen Garber.

Sophia Garber wasn’t sure she agreed but added, “I don’t mind being the favorite child.”

“I think that Josie is Mom‘s favorite, but I’m Dad‘s favorite,” said Ellie Thomas. “But Dad gets mad at me after soccer games more than he does Josie.”

As far as the coaches are concerned all three younger siblings said their older sisters are the favorites. “I know that Ese is the coaches’ favorite because she’s been here longer,” said Julia Jones. “I also know that she’s a favorite because anytime they talk to me it’s always about her.”

Although the siblings like to joke and argue, they understand that this is a special season for them together as sisters. The time on the field together will end in the next month for the Jones and Thomas girls when the senior sisters graduate. After multiple seasons with her sister since preschool, Josie Thomas says she’ll miss more than just playing soccer with Ellie and that her biggest take away isn’t about the game itself. “I will miss our trips to Sonic on the way home after practice. Just our rides home after practice in general. But when the season is over, I’m going to take away the reminder that my sister will always be there for me and she’ll stick up for me when I need her.”