Sisters (from left) Taylor, Kayse and Hannah Ellis have been in the George Washington starting lineup all season.
Winfield sisters (from left) Jayne and Mary Lawman, Paige and Reiley Bannister and twins Carley and Claire Miller have powered the Generals back to the state tournament this week to defend their title.
WINFIELD - The word family often comes up often when coaches and players describe the bond they share, but for two Kanawha Valley girls soccer teams, that has taken on a deeper meaning this season.
For George Washington and Winfield, the run to this week's state tournament has been powered by sisters.
At defending state champion Winfield, Jayne and Mary Lawman are the leading and second-leading goal scorers, respectively, while Paige and Reiley Bannister and twins Carley and Claire Miller have been a big help in supporting roles.
For GW, the trio of Taylor and younger twins Hannah and Kayse Ellis has guided the Patriots, who finished state runners-up last year, back for another crack at the prize.
Winfield takes on Morgantown in Friday's Class AAA semifinals, while GW squares off with Washington in the other bracket. (See Page 2B for pairings and schedule.)
Jayne Lawman, a junior who has already verbally committed to Marshall, has netted a team-high 22 goals for the Generals while Mary Lawman has chipped in 20 in her first season. Paige Bannister has pitched in five goals as one of the top substitutes.
Winfield (21-1-1) has been No. 1 for most of the season in the state coaches association rankings.
"They push each other to be better,'' said Winfield 10th-year coach Marshall Hoff after a recent practice. "They bring that mentality. You love that because that's what you're selling. We spend a lot of time together. These girls share a lot of emotions. We're a family.''
Paige Bannister, a senior, said the siblings make everyone better players.
"I think we all motivate each other because we can be honest,'' she smiled. "We have a lot of will.''
"When I do something wrong, she'll tell me,'' Mary Lawman chimed in of big sis Jayne. "She's honest about it and it helps me play.''
Jayne Lawman said the closeness she shares with younger sister Mary permeates throughout the team.
"None of us fight at all,'' said Jayne Lawman. "We all get along pretty well. I love playing with my sister. It's good for us.''
"We all get along, so it works out well,'' added Mary Lawman. "I'm happy to be on this team. It's awesome.''
At GW, Taylor Ellis has totaled 11 goals, which is tied for third-best, while Hannah Ellis has tacked on nine goals. The Patriots (19-2-2), who lost to Winfield in last year's title game, finished fourth in the state rankings.
"I've always wanted to play with my sisters,'' said Taylor Ellis, a senior who has been to states three of the past four years. "We really do push each other and make each other better.
"It's made us closer over the years. We fight sometimes on the field, but that's because we're family. [Our teammates] see how close we are and it makes them want to be part of the family, too. This year we're closer than we've ever been.''
Patriots first-year coach Megan Johnson, a former standout at GW, said each of the Ellis sisters brings something different to the pitch.
"They're a great group of girls,'' Johnson said. "They have a really special bond. They feed off each other really well. Sometimes being part of a family like that, it could get competitive and there's absolutely none of that with them.''
Taylor Ellis and sophomore Kayse Ellis play right and center back, respectively, while sophomore Hannah Ellis is at left back.
"They're right next to each other on the field and they're constantly helping each other out,'' said Johnson. "They're always looking for each other because they know they can count on each other.''
Johnson said the team feeds off the Ellis' relationship.
"It brings the whole team together,'' said the GW coach. "Every team has to have a special bond and we all have that, and they're one of the key reasons why. We all want to be like them.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.