By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
Four years ago, the Franklin girls’ soccer program made history when it brought home its first state title. Although Kristi Kirshe (rightfully) drew most of the attention for her goalscoring exploits that season, there were also a few freshmen that contributed to the championship.
Among the underclassmen getting regular playing time was a pair of sisters, Victoria and Alexis Stowell. Now seniors, they are the Panthers leading scorers this fall and once again have Franklin poised to be one of the top seeds in Div. 1 South when the brackets are released on Monday morning.
With a state title, two sectional titles, and three sectional final appearances, not to mention four Kelley-Rex titles, the Stowell sisters have drawn plenty of deserved attention, but this year another Stowell sibling, David, is also trying to make a name for himself in the postseason.
“When we’re at home the girls keep it down,” said David about having to deal with the succes of his sisters over the past few season, “but at school everyone was talking about it and it was annoying at first.”
Victoria added with a laugh, “Because everyone’s like the twins, the twins and he’s like, no we’re triplets. I think we’re all happy for each other, but I think he’s sick of hearing about it.”
David will be getting his first taste of the playoffs. He spent some time with varsity as a junior and was on the roster as the Panthers reached the South quarterfinal before bowing put on penalties against Silver Lake. This year, he is a regular in the lineup and has provided scoring punch either in the starting 11 or off the bench.
“This is the only chance that I’ve had,” he explained, “so I took nothing for granted and just went all out. It’s been a great experience so far.”
If he does need support or advice about what the playoff experience is like, he can get plenty from his sisters.
“It’s a great thing,” said David, “because it relieves a lot of pressure that you have and lot of the nerves because this is my first playoffs that I’m part of and I know my sister are there for me.”
The sisters provide that support for each other on the pitch as well as at home. Victoria leads the Panthers with 24 points, including 17 assists, and Alexis has chipped in with nine goals and 16 points. It has become a common sight in the score book to see the Stowell name listed in both the goal and assist columns.
“We have that connection as teammates that other people don’t have,” said Victoria. “When I give her the ball, I know what she’s going to do with it.”
Alexis said, “We rely on each other.” Victoria quickly jumped in to add, “Sometimes a little too much. I’ll pass to her side the entire time and [head coach Tom] Geysen will yell at me, switch the field.”
The triplets began playing soccer as very young children, following in the footsteps of their father. All three tried other sports while growing up but it was soccer that stuck and they quickly progressed from the town recreational leagues to travel leagues to club programs.
Although their busy schedules in the spring and fall make it tough, they still find time to practice in the backyard on the two nets set up there.
“Everything we do is a competition,” said Victoria, reflecting on a few games where she had to play against Alexis when they were little. “We’re competitive about everything, like grades.”
Alexis joked, “Like, she has 20-something points and I’m trying to get just as much. It makes you work harder.”
As the years went by the siblings also developed different traits on and off the pitch. Alexis is “impulsive,” according to Victoria, and aggressive on the pitch but very quiet off it, as is David, and Victoria goes from being “all business on the field,” as her coach described, to being gregarious during interviews.
“I think it’s something our coaches have instilled in us, soccer is business and you can have fun after you win,” said Victoria.
Alexis explained, “Geysen always tells us that if we get fouled, I’ll attack right away, where she’s more sneaky.” Victoria chimed in and joked, “I’ll wait until the ref looks away.”
The sisters will continue their partnership on the pitch next fall at Assumption College. At one point in the recruiting process, they were looking at different schools but then decided that it would be “weird” not playing together at the next level and approached coaches as a “package deal.”
Victoria said, “At one point, I was leaning towards one college and she was leaning towards another and my parents were like, you can go to different schools, it’s not a big deal.”
“But we thought about it and it would just be so weird not seeing each other every day, not playing together.”
There has been plenty of success in recent years for the girls’ program and as seniors the Stowell sisters now have a better understanding of what it takes to win it all.
“When we won our freshman year, we didn’t realize how big of an accomplishment it was,” Victoria remarked, “but then losing in the semifinals and then South sectionals…this year it’s our team and it’s our chance to show our impact on the program.”
David spent as much time as possible cheering on his sisters the past few seasons, but he is looking forward to his own chance at adding to the family’s trophy case.
He chuckled when it was suggested that it may be nice to have the upper hand for once and get further than his sisters in the tournament, but he said that it is good to know that the triplets are always there for each other.
“It kind of makes things easier,” David said, “because when one of us falls down then we’re right there to pick them back up. That leads to us having so much success.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.