BRUNSWICK, Md. — When Brunswick High School senior Jada Powell started playing soccer years ago, she followed in many footsteps.
Not only were both of her parents involved in sports, but her older brother, Jackson, and older sister, Jordan, were also soccer players.
Powell said, “It’s like a family affair.”
That same sentiment could be the motto of Brunswick girls soccer this year as the Railroaders program has seven sets of sisters.
Four of those sibling pairs are on the varsity team: senior Atiya Jackson and freshman Layla Jackson; senior Jada Powell and sophomore Jaycee Powell; senior Zoe Murlas and junior Emma Murlas; and sophomore twins Lyke and Brilee Jensen.
Two sets split between varsity and JV: senior Addison Fritz and freshman Ava Fritz; and senior Leah Cook and freshman Hannah Cook.
And sisters Lexi Partyka, a sophomore, and Jasmine Partyka, a freshman, are JV.
Returning 10 experienced seniors from a team that reached the Class 1A state championship game last season, Brunswick already had a roster of players committed to another shot at the program’s first state crown. But with just four families filling nearly half the varsity roster, the railroaders feel an extra closeness.
“It’s really great because we all have a special bond with each other on the team,” Atiyah Jackson said. “And I feel like it makes the whole team connected just because we have literal connections that go home together.”
Brunswick coach Dara Demich can tell. She grew up playing on the same youth soccer team as her twin brother, Drew.
Even after Dara and Drew went their separate ways in high school soccer, leading Brunswick’s girls and boys teams, respectively, they still played on the same team in the offseason.
Dara Demic now leads a squad full of siblings, which can make for some special competition in training.
“When they go up against each other, you get a little more physical play every now and then, so it’s fun to watch in practice,” the coach said. “Sometimes we match it up so you can see them bring out the best sides of themselves a little bit more.”
Atiya Jackson has admitted that she and her sister Lyla push each other. The senior Jackson is a forward who was Frederick County’s leading scorer last season with 21 goals and seven assists. Although Laila can play multiple positions, she is expected to focus on defense this season.
Thanks to their age difference, the two have never been teammates this season.
“We’re on two different sides of the field, but I feel like we can work together as the season goes on,” said Attia, who was proud to see Layla start to carve out her own niche with the Railroaders. “It’s been great watching her grow and improve as a player over the years.”
During last year’s 1A state finals at Loyola University’s Ridley Sports Complex, Lyla sat in the stands on a cold and rainy night watching her sister play in Brunswick’s 6-0 loss to Fallston.
“She’s the reason I started playing soccer because she played soccer,” Lyla said. “So I just played too.”
Likewise, Jada Powell followed the same path as her older siblings, Jordan and Jackson, who played for Brunswick’s girls and boys soccer teams, respectively. Heck, their father, John, is the school’s girls soccer coach.
And now she is a teammate of her younger sister Jacey. Both are central midfielders who can also play high up, and their similar traits are no coincidence.
“Watching her with JV has definitely affected my game,” Jaycee said.
Jaycee, Lake Jensen and Breely Jensen were promoted to the varsity team during Braunschweig’s postseason run. All three even got some playing time.
“It was a really good experience interacting with the elderly,” Briley said. “They were really good teammates.”
After hearing Briley’s comments before being asked about being a JV last season, Lake said, “Kind of what she said.”
Lycke will play up top, while Briley will primarily play for a defense that is expected to include other sorority members Leah Cook, Addison Fritz, Zoe Murlas and Emma Murlas.
“She usually tends to back off and stay behind. She’s really good at getting those people that pass (midfield),” Lake said of her sister. “I really like to run to get the ball. I think that’s just my strong point.”
But no matter how far apart they are on the football field, they will keep the bond they shared for life.
“I think it’s really nice because when you go to a new team or somewhere new, you have somebody that you’re comfortable with and that you’re close with,” Briley said. “It’s just nice that my best friend lives in the same house.”
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