Sister act: Ten sets of siblings help make up East Ridge girls lacrosse program
Playing lacrosse at East Ridge has become a family affair.
Jane and Margaret Ahmann, Michelle and Rebecca Bailey, Bridget and Elizabeth Bregel, Anika and Ella Frazer, Jenna and Kayla Griffith, Veronica and Victoria Gruett, Jessica and Samantha Hammer, Chloe and Grace Heiting and Alyssa and Maria Wallace all play for the Raptors. In addition, sophomore Emily Stefani’s brother, Will, is the team manager.
“There is, literally, a family feel on this team,” said Jessica Hammer, a senior playing her fifth year of varsity lacrosse. “We’re all really close and it’s a lot of fun, especially when you get to play with your sister.”
Jessica and Sam Hammer, who are twins, have each been playing varsity lacrosse at East Ridge since eighth grade. Next year, they’ll both play college lacrosse at Adams State University in Colorado.
The Hammer sisters have each been playing lacrosse for seven years. They were introduced to the sport by their cousin Dani Espinosa, who played lacrosse at the University of Denver and was a big influence.
“We all get along well on this team,” said Sam Hammer, who is a leader on defense for the Raptors. “Everyone gets together with their sister and we buddy up with the other families. We all work hard together. I like playing a team sport, because you make friends and work together.”
The number of sisters on the team has amped up the level of friendly competition on the squad, said East Ridge head coach Andrea Peterson.
Peterson said she saw it the first day of tryouts this spring, when the team was doing athleticism drills like push-ups and sprints.
“You could tell one sister wasn’t going to stop until the other one stopped,” Peterson said. “It was very competitive. I definitely use it to my advantage. It’s a good motivator.”
Jessica Hammer, one of the Raptors top two-way players, said she and her sister are very competitive.
“We compete at pretty much everything,” she said. “That’s just kind of how it is when you’re a twin, especially when you’re on the same team. You always compete for everything.”
Jenna and Kayla Griffith are both seniors this year and are triplets, along with their brother Ty. Kayla plays midfield and is a key distributor for East Ridge. Jenna is one of the Raptors’ top attackers and goal scorers.
“I don’t think I’d be as good of a player as I am now if I didn’t have a sister to play with,” said Jenna Griffith, who is going to play college lacrosse at Wingate University in North Carolina. “There are definitely some fights, but there are way more good times. It’s really good to play with my sister.”
In addition to the improvement caused by the competition between them, Kayla Griffith said she and her twin sister have a special connection on the field. Both girls played hockey for East Ridge as well.
“You always have those good passing skills, because you know where she is going to be,” she said. “We have great teamwork with all the sisters on the team. It’s nice that there’s always someone there, to pass to or just talk to and share the memories of the sport with.”
Peterson played high school lacrosse at Eden Prairie, winning three state championships, before going on to play at Iowa State University, a Division II program. She is in her first year as head coach of East Ridge this season.
Peterson said, with all the siblings, it took her a while to be able to tell everyone apart, but that she has it down now. She said, aside from communication being easier she doesn’t coach sisters much differently than she would any other player. She also said the majority of the sisters play different positions and everyone has their “different style of play.”
“You definitely have to coach every player differently - they’re all individuals,” Peterson said. “You have to learn to coach to their personality and their style of play.”
East Ridge, which is in its third year as its own, solo program, finished 11-5 overall last year, losing 17-5 to Stillwater in the section championship. The Ponies went on to place fourth at the state tournament.
East Ridge only graduated one player last year and returns all of its starters from a year ago along with a large number of returning seniors. The Raptors opened the season with an easy 16-9 win over section foe Mahtomedi last week.
“I’m really happy with our group and I’m excited about the year,” Peterson said. “I’m hoping we’ll go all the way this year.”