The Carter and Tovani families are neighbors, having lived two doors away from each other since Brielynn (now a freshman) was a toddler. Now Catherine is a senior, Anna and Mackenzie are juniors and they’re all celebrating Freedom’s first Bay Valley Athletic League girls soccer championship. Not surprisingly, all four attribute the team’s success to a family atmosphere.
“I’m happy I got to spend my freshman year with my sister, with my two neighbors, with people I know – and that we won,” Brielynn said. “League champs for the first time in Freedom history.”
The familial similarities don’t stop with soccer. The Tovani and Carter families have two boys as well, both younger than the girls. Lisa and Steve Carter, Sr. are the parents of 15-year-old twins Stephen and Jonathon, while Traci and Jeff Tovani have Dylan, 11, and Mason, 10.
“They’ve all played sports together, gone to school together, and I think that’s a great story,” Lisa said. “When Brielynn and the boys (Steven and Jonathon) were younger, on Friday I’d take them all out to go get donuts – people thought I had triplets.”
The team’s closeness isn’t limited to the four girls, as senior defender Haley Vredenburgh also has grown up with and lived near the Carters and Tovanis.
When not playing soccer, the girls attend the same church, hang out together and can be found in the grandstands cheering for the athletes in both families. All four girls also maintain good grades – none of them have a GPA below the mid-3.0 range.
Next year will bring a significant change to the group, notably Catherine, as she’ll graduate from Freedom in the spring and likely go on to play at the collegiate level. While Catherine looks forward to the challenge of college, she knows the parting will be bittersweet.
“At first it’s probably going to be really fun – out and doing my own thing; not having always my parents on my back,” she said. “But after a while, I know I’m going to miss my family and the whole high school team.”
The sisters are all integral parts of the Falcons’ success this season. Forward Catherine is the team’s leading scorer with seven goals, while fellow forward Brielynn is tied with midfielder Angel Gosse for second with five goals. Center-midfielder Mackenzie is fourth on the squad with three. Anna is an anchor on the defensive side of the ball, playing center defender on a team that’s allowed less than one goal per game.
While their numbers speak for themselves, the actual performance is only a small part of what the adults have enjoyed this season. “I’m very proud of all of the girls and what they’ve accomplished,” said Steve Carter, Sr. “Watching them all grow up together, the fact that they ended up on the same team has been very nice.”