Twin girl power on the soccer field

Tara and Mary Caroline Austin

The bond between teammates and how well they know each other on the field is what allows them to work well together and lead a team to victory. This bond was seen in the 2-1 win the injury plagued United States men’s World Cup soccer team pulled off Monday, June 16, over a Ghana team that had previously eliminated them twice from World Cup play in 2006 and 2010.

Take that bond between teammates and add twin sisters into the mix and you have double the familiarity, double the friendship, double the skill, and a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field.

Tara Austin, who plays center midfielder, and Mary Caroline Austin, who plays right midfielder  and is older by one minute — twin 18-year-old sisters — gave the Kelly High School soccer team a definite edge over their opponents and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with for any team they face in the U.S. Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championships in Baton Rouge, where the girls will compete as part of the State Champion Houston Express team June 19-26.

“I think it is definitely an advantage,” said Tara, who also played on the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Olympic Development Team, which competed internationally in Italy against clubs from Italy and Switzerland. “We have a little twin telepathy thing going on. I know exactly where she is when I need a pass. I know exactly how she runs. She’ll be on the right flank, and I’ll be in the middle. I can just play the ball and know that she’ll be there. We’re not really competitive against each other — just the other team.”

The Austin twins hope their telepathic bond on the soccer field will lead their team to a Regional Championship in the 16-team tournament, which includes a slew of southern states including Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas, the team’s opponent Friday, June 20, in the first round of tournament play.

“Our team has been working very hard,” Tara said, adding that their team is filled with skillful players — 14 of the 16 will be playing college soccer. “If we win Regionals, we move on to Nationals which is in July (in Washington D.C.).”

The two began playing soccer together at the age of 6 and joined Spindletop Select at the age of 11. They trained under “The Flying Dutchman” Jan van Beveren — a professional soccer player from the Netherlands who played for the Netherlands national team in the ’70s — for several years up until his death after a lost bout with cancer in 2011 at the age of 63. Beveren holds a special place in the girls’ hearts, so much so that they watch nearly every Netherlands World Cup game and cheer for Beveren’s countrymen along with the U.S. 

“He taught us to never give up,” Mary Caroline said. “One time we were down 7 goals in one game that we needed to overcome, and we did it.”

The girls said Houston Express coach Mark Gibbs has taught them a lot as well, and has been very encouraging. Gibbs also played professional soccer in Wales and England but now resides in the U.S.

“He’s never down on you,” Tara said. “He’s always positive. But his focus is always on working hard and improving your game.”

Although Tara, who is left-footed, and Mary Caroline, who is right-footed, both agree that one of their most challenging and memorable Lady Bulldog soccer moments together was defeating St. Agnes in a district match in penalty kicks to bring home their first district crown, the sisters know they both have tough roads ahead of them now that they have decided to go their separate ways. Tara received a scholarship to play soccer for Division I Belmont University (Nashville, Tenn.) and will begin playing for the team Aug. 1, and Mary Caroline, Kelly’s 2014 valedictorian, will study Biology at Wake Forest (N.C.), seven hours away from Nashville.

“I don’t think it is going to sink in until we’re actually apart,” Tara said. “We’ll definitely text and call and FaceTime. But we’re going to be pretty busy with school and soccer.”

“We’re really close,” Mary Caroline said, adding that the longest the two have ever been apart is a week. “We’re together all the time. …  Any time we do any activities it’s together. She plays some games in North Carolina, so maybe I’ll take my (telepathic) powers to her games.”

Gibbs said it has been a pleasure coaching the twins.

“Both of them are absolute gems,” Gibbs said. “The Austins should be very proud.”

Although the girls’ choices in colleges has them located only a state away from each other, it places them more than a thousand miles from their hometown of Beaumont.

“I am definitely going to miss them,” said Greg Austin, Tara and Mary Caroline’s father, who also acted as the girls’ soccer coach for several years. “I’m very proud of both of them.”

Greg plans to keep the Austin soccer legacy alive, however. Although the two will play on separate teams, the twin power will continue for Kelly High as 14-year-old twins Jonathan and Olivia Austin, Tara and Mary Caroline’s younger siblings, carry on the family’s soccer name at the school. Greg’s youngest son, Reece, 11, also plays soccer for Liverpool, a Gusher United team that competes at the Cris Quinn Memorial Soccer Fields.

As for the U.S. men’s World Cup soccer team, Tara and Mary Caroline, said they’re optimistic about the team’s chances despite the injury to star player Jozy Altidore and if the U.S. team gets eliminated there’s always the Netherlands team to cheer for.