Friday October 22, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- You can forgive Andrea Arena if she's seeing double this season.

At times, the captain of the Taconic girls soccer team will look upfield and see the Braves' three sets of twins calling for the ball. When she comes to the sideline, she gets instructions from first-year coach John Flynn and -- you guessed it -- his twin brother Billy, an assistant.

"It gets a little confusing," Arena said. "It's really weird. It's unlikely. That doesn't happen."

Of the Braves' three on-field twins, two pair -- juniors Meghan and Katie Bowler and Eva and Lily Handerek -- are cousins. Megan and Kristin Hill are the third, part of six twins currently enrolled at Taconic High School, according to athletic director Jim Abel. Four sets of twins are in the junior class.

"It's uncanny more than bizarre," John Flynn said. "It's a strange happenstance."

Flynn, who coached boys for 14 years before taking over the girls program this year, is still trying to keep the twins straight as the season comes to a close. The Handereks are fraternal twins, while the other two pairs are identical. The Bowlers may be the toughest to pick out, so John Flynn and his brother came up with a system in the preseason. The coaches identified each girl by the color of her cleats. Then, they tried to move from cleats to faces. If all else fails, the coaches just yell "Bowler!" and get the attention of both.

"I think it's a twin thing," John Flynn said. "Someone on the street says Billy.


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I still turn around and look."

It can be just as confusing for the players. Botched plays can come from a case of mistaken identity.

"I get Katie and Meghan confused a lot," Lily Handerek said. "I'm just like ‘Meghan, Meghan' and she doesn't go to the ball and I kick it out. She doesn't know who I'm calling so I'm calling the wrong person. It gets confusing."

Yet for every misstep, the twins also bring a closeness to the team. Flynn said he saw it immediately. The twins would walk to practice or sit on the bus together. It was helpful for Flynn, coming in from outside the team. The Braves already had six players, more than half a lineup, that were tight knit.

On the field, each set knows each other's game. The Handereks love give-and-go passes. Combine them with their cousins, the Bowlers, and the four can string together passes. Each twin always knows where the other likes to be on the field. It's the same for the Hills.

"If you can connect with someone you know what to do," Megan Hill said. "If I have the ball and I see her on the sideline, I know to pass to the corner and she knows I'm going to pass her, too. It just works out."

The Handereks connected on Monday, scoring two goals each in a 5-0 win at Commerce. Lily assisted on one of Eva's goals on a sequence that Billy Flynn called a "twin play."

"They were coming up the middle and they were looking for each other," he said. "When you grow up and you practice together, you kick the ball in the backyard, you tend to look for that one girl. You recognize the voice."

The twins also have no problems raising those voices and pushing each other. How long can you stay mad at your twin, anyway? So each set is quick to point out mistakes and encourage a little harder than the average teammate. Then again, this isn't the average team.

"I know Meghan, that she can push harder and I'm not afraid to tell her to," Katie Bowler said. "I feel like we kind of pursue each other to do better. Some people might be hesitant to tell me what to do but Meghan would be right on it. I need a little push. ...

"We have so many sets of twins, [that] we're able to push each other that much more."

To reach Christopher James:
cjames@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6251.