When Courtney Kobal joined sisters Amber and Brittany at Kenwood, it gave the Bluebirds a triple threat and dreams of a state championship

Kenwood sister act

Girls soccer

Varsity

October 11, 2006|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Reporter

Not too many people were happy last season when Kenwood and Eastern Tech's girls soccer teams tied, 1-1.

Jeff and Tammi Kobal, however, couldn't have asked for better.

They had a daughter on each team - Amber, a Kenwood defender, and Courtney, an Eastern Tech striker.

This season, the Kobals haven't worried about neutrality. Courtney transferred to Kenwood and now both girls, along with their youngest sister Brittany, are starting for the Bluebirds.

For Amber, a senior, having her sisters on the team is a great way to finish her high school career. She'd much rather have them with her than against her.

"They're just as competitive as I am," Amber said. "I go into every game and I want to win it. I know my sister [Brittany] behind me in goal isn't letting nothing in. I know that Courtney's up there trying to score and I don't have to worry about marking my sister."

A fourth Kobal sister, Danielle, a sophomore at Eastern Tech, has played a lot of recreation league soccer, but doesn't play for the Mavericks.

The sisters were born within 3 1/2 years of each other - Amber, 17; Courtney, 16; Danielle, 14; and Brittany, 13.

When his daughters were little and dressed alike, some people thought they were quadruplets, Jeff Kobal said. Some onlookers even took pictures; the Kobals were unable to convince them otherwise.

They look less alike now, and have vastly different personalities and jobs on the field, but bring the same competitive fire.

Amber, a starter on defense since her freshman year, sets a high standard for Courtney, a natural talent up top, and Brittany, a fearless goalkeeper.

"On the soccer field, they respect each other, but Amber takes the more dominant role," their father said. "You have to outwork her in order for her to leave you alone."

That was obvious recently in an under-18 game that even Brittany laughs about now.

"Brittany gets leveled and she's on the ground," Jeff Kobal said. "The coach is getting ready to jump over the fence and help her. Amber's yelling, `You better get up. The ball's still in play.' Brittany shuffles to her feet. Amber's still screaming at her. The coach doesn't know whether to go on the field and help her or just wait."

Kenwood coach Derek Woodward is thrilled to have all three on his team. They get along most of the time, he said, but there are moments.

"If one tells the other to do something in practice and she doesn't agree, they'll get argumentative," Woodward said. "The kids think it's funny and I think it's funny, because they're so nice and they present themselves so well to the outside, but they'll start talking and there's little comments. Then, it's gone."

Then, they focus.

Everyone agreed that Amber, whom Woodward calls his team mother hen, smoothed the transition for her sisters.

"Courtney coming in from Eastern just because of the geographic rivalry could have been tough on her, and Amber made it easier," Woodward said. "Brittany being the only freshman on the team with two sisters, especially Amber on defense, it was a lot easier to bring her in and make her feel part of things right away."

In preseason, Woodward said he wasn't sure Brittany was ready for varsity, but she proved herself in the first game, making 11 saves as the Bluebirds upset then-No. 1 John Carroll, 1-0.

"I was really nervous. I couldn't stop moving and when [we] first scored, I was like, `Just let the game be over,' " Brittany said, but as she started making saves her confidence grew.

"You just saw a force inside of her, which was like. `I'm really out here to play,'" Amber said. "After that, she would start talking and calling for the ball really loud."

While Brittany faced a big transition, Courtney faced an even bigger change in moving from Eastern Tech to Kenwood. She left Eastern Tech just after scoring the game-winner in the Class 2A state final.

"It was tough seeing her leave, because we were pretty good friends," Mavericks senior Cindi Nickles said. "We all knew it was going to happen. She didn't move for soccer but for school reasons, and she had to do it. I told her I didn't want her to go, but I wish her luck all the time."

Courtney left Eastern Tech because she was no longer interested in her engineering major. An honor student like all of her sisters, she enrolled at Kenwood, barely a mile away.

The rivalry between the two schools can be so intense that Courtney, a junior, worried her new teammates might not accept her.

"Everyone was a little upset at her, because when we played Eastern last year, she scored the goal and tied the game," Kenwood teammate Danielle Niccoli said, "but when she got here, it was pretty easy to accept her. Everyone knew she was good and she would help our team."

It didnt take Courtney long to get into Kenwood school spirit, although her wardrobe needed a blue-and-white makeover.

On the first day of basketball practice, she walked into the gym wearing orange socks, orange shorts and an Eastern Tech hoodie.

The next day, Woodward brought her an armful of blue and white Kenwood soccer shirts.

When lacrosse season began, she wanted to borrow the Bluebirds' mascot costume and wear it on the sideline. Her request denied, she hatched a new plan.

"She went home and cut up carpet and made her own bird costume," Amber said. "She used a whole roll of duct tape, but it looked pretty good."

For the next few months, the Kobals will concentrate on helping the Bluebirds contend for the Class 4A state title.

"We've been wanting to [win a championship] since ninth grade," Amber said, "and this team really has the chemistry. This team is not worried about the little stuff, the drama stuff. They're like, `We're out here to play soccer.' "

In that respect, the Kobals have 14 more sisters.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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