MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Sibling rivalries typically involve menial skirmishes over situations like who has control over the television remote, who has shotgun or who has to take out the trash.
Now imagine if brother and sister both hold supreme skill on the soccer pitch? For the answer, refer to the Keane family. Yet, ironically their answer is unusual.
For West Virginia’s senior net minder Sara Keane
, having a sibling who also competes Division I soccer is a supportive experience. Her brother, Ben, is a sophomore defender at the University of Cincinnati.
“He is doing so well at Cincinnati; I am so happy for him,” explained Keane. “Now that I am a senior, I am hoping to go catch some of his games in the spring. I just hope that he continues to do well and keeps finding success.”
Although they were exposed to a plethora of sports as kids, Keane would say that soccer was definitely encouraged. This is because to be a Keane means to have soccer woven within your DNA. Her father, Mike, played college soccer at Wilkes University. He went on to coach Sara’s club team, Mt. Laurel United Fire, to a 2008 U-17 state cup championship.
“My parents were the type of parents that threw us into a whole bunch of sports to see what we liked,” said Keane. “I guess they got lucky that we both enjoyed it (soccer) enough to continue to do it.”
Humble without hesitation, Keane, the Mountaineers’ starter since 2011, is remiss to say that she simply “continues” to play soccer. Despite the fact that she only became a net minder by default as a kid, she has amassed quite the list of awards while at WVU, including 2011 Big East All-Rookie Team honors, two 2012 Big 12 Goaltender of the Week selections and a 2012 All-Big 12 Academic Soccer Team recognition.
“I truly would rather our team win a championship than me have my own personal award,” said Keane about her badges of excellence. “At the moment (of winning), I am proud of myself and happy, but there are 20 other girls who are fighting to win a championship. I would rather be on board with them then collecting my own trophies.”
Being a net minder comes with a lot of responsibility, especially when the game is pushed into extra minutes. Soccer is one of the few sports left in which overtime is solved by sudden victory, making each shot more crucial. A slight slip up or error within the goal box could spell defeat for a squad. Keane keeps calm, although she admits to feeling the pressure of the moment.
“I try to stay calm, but there is a little piece of me that says this is a little more intense – there is more game on the line,” attributed Keane. “I talk to my back line and make sure everyone is calm while also keeping calm myself.”
These moments have been standard for WVU this season. Despite the 4-2-2 record going into this weekend, the Mountaineers have twice given up late scores in contests, turning victories into ties. None is more pungent then the first game of the season at No. 2 Penn State. Up 2-0 with just 10 minutes remaining, WVU allowed the Nittany Lions to score 72 seconds apart to force overtime. The defense did its part in the contest, shrugging off 21 shots, while Keane made a career-high eight saves.
“As difficult as it was to give up those two goals, I was really proud of the team for standing our ground and not giving up a goal in overtime,” said Keane. “You look back and you could say it was a game (we) let slip through our fingers, but there are a lot of teams that would let up that third goal because Penn State had the momentum.”
While Keane and her teammates gear up for this weekend’s slate against Richmond and Wright State, they know that Big 12 play in on the horizon.
“Everyone’s really excited,” expressed Keane. “We shocked a lot of people in the Big 12 last year, and that was exciting for us, but now we have put a target on our backs for those games. Coach (Nikki Izzo-Brown) has a saying - pressure is a privilege.”
The Mountaineers must first deal with the Spiders and Raiders as they visit Dick Dlesk Stadium this weekend. The first game takes place on Friday at 7 p.m. against Richmond, while the final game against Wright State gets underway at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Keep an eye out for Mike and Kim Keane, as Sara’s parents are likely to be in attendance.
“They try to keep it as equal as possible between my brother and me, but it is getting tougher,” admits the goalie. “Regardless, it is awesome to have the support.”
For now, the Keane kids will have to find something other than soccer to feud about. We will have to wait until the next time the front seat of the car opens to find out who wins