PLAINFIELD – Sisters playing on the same high school team is not uncommon. Neither are twins, fraternal or identical.
There have even been instances of three sisters on one sports team.
But to have all of the above on one team? That is far less likely. To have them all playing on the soccer field at the same time? Even more unlikely.
The Plainfield girls soccer team not only has four sets of sister combinations totaling nine players on its roster this season, but all nine have been on the field at the same time.
“I’d like to make it to the (Class M) state championship (game),” junior Izzy Newbury said. “This is such an amazing thing, something we’ve always dreamed of since we were children. We’ve all grow together and do really well in sports together because it’s something we have all really wanted.”
Plainfield has just 22 players on its roster, according to head coach Jon Zielinski. So Izzy and Mckayla Newbury, Kate and Cassie Carelson, Hannah and Rebekah Dagenais and Alexis, Hannah and Lindsey Price make up almost half the roster.
“It dawned on me last year when we had eight sisters. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s one more coming,’” Zielinski said. “We are a small team, so to have nine, almost half the team is related. We don’t cut anyone.”
Most of the sisters started playing together in the Peanut Rec league. They haven’t all played together at the same time until this season.
The Carelsons are juniors and identical. Kate plays in the midfield, Cassie on defense and Zielinski, now in his 12th season, still has trouble telling them apart.
“I had them in class last year (Zielinski teaches social studies). From the back, I can’t tell them apart,” Zielinski said. “They have different cleats, different numbers and different personalities. They are the best-behaved kids on the planet. If the Newburys were (identical) twins, they would play jokes on me on a regular basis.”
Ah yes, the Newbury sisters. The one thing the other sister combos would agree on is that the Newburys are the funniest, most likely to play pranks and to keep everyone loose. The juniors are fraternal twins, Izzy is a striker, while Mckayla plays defense.
“I like to joke around but I’m not as funny as Mckayla,” Cassie Carelson said.
Hannah Dagenais is a senior forward and works in tune with her younger sister Rebekah, a sophomore center-midfielder. Hannah feels she is funnier than her sister in a deadpan sort of way and of course, they argue like sisters do.
“Of course, sisters fight on the field, bicker and stuff, but we forget about it five seconds later,” Hannah said.
Rebekah feels she is the bigger prankster, then says to Hannah: “You’re not funny.” Then Hannah says, “Some people beg to differ.”
And on they go.
“I just let her say what she needs to say. I listen to her because I know she knows what she is saying,” Rebekah said. “It’s a special bond we all have.”
Alexis Price has played both forward and midfield for Plainfield. Now the senior helps anchor the defense while Lindsey the freshman has filled in nicely at center-midfield. Hannah, a sophomore also plays on defense.
“The ones who aren’t twins, there’s a clear pecking order,” Zielinski said. “The twins have a tendency to go at it. They may yell at each other, but they play well together. It’s really a family atmosphere at those events (pasts parties).”
There is actually one more twin on the team: Karley Belisle, a freshman – but her twin is her brother Carson who runs cross country.
“If I want to do a specific play with Mckayla, she will know what I want to do, as would the Carelsons or the Dagenais or the Prices,” Izzy Newbury said. “It’s crazy we can all bounce off each other so easily and understand what we will do.”
While this is a unique situation on its own merit, there is more to the story: Plainfield is having a fine season. The Panthers have won 10 of their first 11 games and are playing a stronger schedule than the last two seasons, when the team was the No. 1 seed after winning its division, then reached the ECC tournament final.
Plainfield beat, in succession, Norwich Free Academy, Waterford, Ledyard, Killingly and Bacon Academy in the past two weeks, most, if not all, larger schools enrollment-wise. So not only are they sisters, they are serious competitors, too.
“Going into the season, I didn’t think we would win a lot of games (moving up in a division),” Hannah Dagenais said. “We started to beat them and I was like, ‘Wow, we are a lot better than I thought we were.’”
Said Alexis Price: “We know how each other plays, so we know what we are capable of.”
Ten times this season one sister has combined on a goal with a sister from one of the other three families. Only one goal, Hannah Dagenais from Rebekah, has been from the same family.
Some of their athleticism also extends past the soccer pitch. Cassie Carelson was a state champion in the 800-meter run last spring in the Class M meet and followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the State Open. Kate Carelson placed fourth in the 400 in Class M and sixth in the event at the Open.
Izzy Newbury was the runner-up in the 300 hurdles and she joined the Carelson twins on the 4×100 team that finished third and the 4×400 that took sixth in Class M. Mckayla Newbury throws the javelin.
Mckayla suffered a torn ACL during a game against Lyman Memorial in early October of 2017 – but she didn’t know it. The initial diagnosis was a hyper-extended knee, so she continued to play.
“It would be painful, but it would go away in 5 minutes,” Mckayla said. “I’d shake my leg and the pain would move down to my foot, go away and I would go back in the game.”
It wasn’t until after the season when she found out the full extent of the injury. Mckayla had surgery in January and returned in time for the outdoor track season.
“This is her first contact sport, so we’ve been easing her back in. Toughness-wise, she is back,” Zielinski said.
Early in the season, Zielinski met with the team to discuss some attainable goals.
“I tried to set some realistic goals along the lines of splitting for the division title, hoping to make the ECC finals and the quarterfinals in the (Class M) state tournament,” Zielinski said. “They wanted none of that. It was, win the division, win the ECCs, make it to the finals of states. I tried to temper expectations a little bit and they weren’t having any of it. They’re hungry.”
Some of the sisters felt there was no extra pressure to achieve the lofty goals while they are all still together, but there is a sense of urgency to accomplish what they can while they can.
“We’ll probably never play with each other ever again. The only time we will see each other is if we play each other in college,” Mckayla Newbury said.