GRAND ISLAND — When teams refer to themselves as a family it’s usually hyperbole. For the Grand Island girls soccer team it’s reality.
The Vikings feature three sets of sisters this season — Adiana and Antonia Cotroneo, Payton and Morgan Khadra and Avery and Jolie Mondoux — creating a family atmosphere that cannot be exaggerated. The elder sister of each set also happens to be a senior, the others a sophomore and two freshmen.
In-practice competition between siblings is fierce. Bragging rights do not end when the drill is complete or practice is over. The sisters compete, not just in soccer, but in academics and any other thinkable activity.
But none of them scoff at the idea of having a sister on the same team. The Cotroneo, Khadra and Mondoux sisters genuinely enjoy playing with each other, and as Grand Island begins its pursuit of a Class A1 sectional championship against Kenmore West at 7 p.m. tonight, the prospect of winning a title with a family member is even more appealing.
“Since it’s my senior year, I know I’ll remember it more and more,” Adiana Cotroneo said. “Knowing my sister is by my side through it all makes it even more memorable.”
Roles have long been cemented for the seniors — Adiana, Avery and Payton — and they have all developed into premier players within the Niagara Frontier League and Section VI, combining for 43 goals and 41 assists this season. Their experience and skill allows them to show their sisters what it takes to be successful at the varsity level.
But such success can create a shadow for a younger sibling. Coaches, fans and teammates often expect the younger sibling to be as good or better. They sometimes share those expectations and the pressure can be overwhelming. But Antonia, Jolie and Morgan can relate to one another, each trying to find their own niche within the team.
“I probably haven’t lived up to those expectations, because I haven’t gotten a chance to show them,” Jolie Mondoux said. “I think in the future, I will be able to prove those expectations. … I’m sure the younger ones feel the same way I feel now and it’s a way for us to connect.”
Like any up-and-coming player, the younger trio want to prove they belong, and they have by totaling 15 goals and 10 assists. That sentiment comes out in drills during practice, with none of them wanting to give an inch and forfeit inner-family supremacy.
“It’s always very competitive,” Payton Khadra said. “(Morgan) tackles me, she hits me and I hit her back. We try to fight for the ball, but at the same time, we also like to play together when we’re on the same team.”
Aside from the Khadras — Morgan made the varsity team as a freshman in 2020 — the sisters have not had an opportunity to play together on a formal team. The seniors could have balked at the idea. It’s their turf and older siblings frequently dread having a younger tag along.
But all of them were excited to be paired with their siblings this season and it is evident in their interactions on the bench and on the field. In fact, when it came time to pose for pictures after winning the NFL championship on Oct. 14, The sisters paired off for individual photos with the trophy before finding classmates and friends to pose with.
“Every once in a while you can see the closeness in the sisters,” Grand Island head coach Dave Bowman said. “They buddy up with their sisters and they also push them. I’ve heard the young ones tell their sisters, ‘Hey, go out and get this.’ It’s that family atmosphere and three specific examples of family that just encourages that as we move forward and try to meet our goals.”
Nick Sabato can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.