Whenever Kouts junior Maranda Birmingham lines up against her younger sister Gracie in practice, there’s always a little extra motivation to make a play.
“Whenever we go for a ball, we’re always going after it,” Maranda said. “It’s more than going after our other teammates. I’m always pushing her to take the ball from me, and I’m always trying to take the ball from her.”
Both midfielders, Maranda, who has totaled four goals and an assist in the early going, and Gracie, a freshman, are taking full advantage of playing together on the same team for the first time since they were young.
The Fillies are off to a 4-1 start in their second year as a varsity program.
“The nice part is that they have very similar styles of play,” Kouts coach Tim Schwartz said. "They have good speed and good foot skills. They have strong legs. They can cross the ball or they can shoot it.”
Maranda was the leading scorer for the Fillies as a sophomore. She has been practicing as the backup goalkeeper and Schwartz appreciates her versatility.
“I can put her anywhere,” he said. “At one of our matches, we were playing around with her at sweeper in case we need her to play defense.
“She so confident in what she does and likes to be all over the field.”
The sisters have no problems passing the ball to each other on the field.
“Whenever I have it on one side, Gracie is on the opposite side,” Maranda said. “I know she will be there when I cross it. It’s the same for her. She knows I will be there when she crosses it.”
Gracie said that her connection with her sister is the strongest of any she has on the team.
“When she talks, I know what she’s thinking,” she said. “I know where she’s going to go with the ball. We definitely have a stronger connection than with anybody else. We know exactly what’s going to happen.”
The Kouts soccer program has been a family affair for the Birminghams. Youngest sister, Serena, is in seventh grade and will be on the team in two years, and Jack, Maranda and Gracie’s father and former Athletic Director and Assistant Principal at Kouts, was instrumental in starting the team.
“He provided so much support to get the program going,” Schwartz said. “I sure am glad when he got the job (at Wheeler Elementary School) they didn’t have to move.”
The sisters appreciate their opportunities to play on the same team.
“It’s been a good experience for me,” Maranda said. “I get to show her what I have learned over the first two years. We get some one-on-one time together. It’s meaningful for her to be on there and we can experience the same things together.”