CHENEY, Wash. – Other than an 18-month age difference and now 1,253.6 miles between Anna Goebel and her younger sister Kayla Goebel, nothing quite separates the two. The Goebel sisters grew up playing soccer on the same team nearly their entire lives – but this Sunday, Nov. 6, will look drastically different.
Anna – now in her junior season for NAU Soccer – has carried the Lumberjacks into the Big Sky title game with three goals in two games. Kayla – a redshirt freshman at Eastern Washington – has witnessed history as the Eagles won their first two postseason games ever to qualify for the final round.
Now, in the biggest game of the year and for an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, the two squads (and sisters) will go head-to-head.
"It's always been a possibility," Anna said. "But I didn't ever really picture it to be honest. It's not something I ever thought of."
"We're not used to being against each other," Kayla added.
It all began at the ages of four and five for the Goebel sisters. Soccer has always been in the picture and competing together – on the same team – has always been the norm. But once college hit, and Anna committed to play at NAU after attending a handful of camps in Flagstaff, Kayla decided to shake up the status quo.
"I thought it would be cool to play against her for once," Kayla explained. "I also liked the school [Eastern Washington] and wanted a change of scenery."
Just like that, the Phoenix, Ariz. natives were off and living out their dreams in two different states and two different Big Sky programs. Although Anna specifically instructed Kayla she wasn't allowed to do precisely that, the sisterly bond has shaped up to be an even tighter one.
"We've gotten closer as we've grown up," Anna said. "Especially when she came here [to Eastern Washington], being so far away has definitely brought us closer."
"And once you stopped hitting me," Kayla jokingly added.
From creating exclusive sister music videos, to chasing each other around the house, to a few battle wounds here and there, the minor fights between Kayla and Anna have decreased over time.
And while the Goebel sisters certainly left their imprint at Sandra Day O'Connor High School, the chapter as college athletes is still being written for the two of them.
Kayla redshirted her freshman year to injury for the Eagles, but Anna was right there beside her. Anna's 'big sister' instincts kicked in to help lighten the load for someone going through similar ups and downs that Division I athletics often brings about.
"I just gave her advice on how to handle the situation," Anna said. "I didn't come into my first year hurt, but I didn't play a ton my freshman year. More than anything, I tried to help her focus on being confident in herself rather than getting down."
When asked the ways in which Kayla looks up to Anna, her response was almost instantaneous. The advice and the shoulder to lean on is one thing – but Anna's actions on and off the soccer field speak the loudest.
"She's a hard worker and there is never a time where she isn't giving 100 percent," Kayla said. "She just always has a positive attitude."
So what does get between the Goebel sisters, if anything?
Who does the rest of the Goebel clan cheer for come Championship Sunday? Kayla posed they would cheer for her and the Eagles while Anna challenged it would be for her and the Lumberjacks.
Perhaps there will be a handful of neutral fans sitting in the stands. Or maybe, it's simply a win-win situation for all involved. Anna said if she had to lose to anyone, Kayla would be the one person she'd want to lose to.
Kayla nodded in agreement.