As a declaration of unity, teammates often huddle together on the sidelines and shout the word ‘family’ before taking the field.
For the Rosati-Kain field hockey team, the word ‘family’ is not just a figure of speech.
Of the 11 players on the field at one time, the Kougars often play with four Wilmsmeyers — twin seniors Ana and Olivia and sisters sophomore Ella and freshman Isa.
Ana is the leading goal scorer, Olivia is the crafty midfielder, and Ella and Isa are shutdown defenders. In essence, to score a goal against Rosati-Kain, a team must run the Wilmsmeyer gauntlet.
“All four of us are better at different things,” Ana Wilmsmeyer said. “Olivia is a really good defender, I’m good with strength and getting calls for us, Ella’s a little firecracker and Isa just goes for it.”
Ana and Olivia dabbled in volleyball and track in their youth, but wanted to try a new sport when they entered high school. One day, they accompanied one of their five brothers to watch his girlfriend play field hockey at Rosati-Kain.
“Until the summer before our freshman year, we had never heard of field hockey,” Ana Wilmsmeyer said. “Then we went to that game and thought, ‘This is cool.’”
Since then, the twins have been the catalysts for a program that continues to grow. The senior co-captains have not only encouraged their younger sisters to play the sport, they are quick to encourage Rosati-Kain underclassmen to try out for the team as well.
“Their dedication to the program has led them to be some of the best recruiters to new and returning students,” Rosati-Kain coach Julie Murphy said.
In fact, this is the first season in several years that the Kougars have fielded completely separate varsity and junior varsity teams, no longer needing anyone to “swing” — play for both teams on the same afternoon.
The Wilmsmeyer family has a grass field behind its home in Granite City, Illinois, where at times all 11 members can be found playing soccer, lacrosse or field hockey. They credit that field as the location where they developed much of their athletic skill and competitive drive.
“There have been multiple fence boards broken, we’ve popped balls, hit cars,” Ana Wilmsmeyer said. “We’re always outside if it’s nice weather.”
For sophomore Ella, joining her sisters on the Rosati-Kain field hockey team was not automatic.
“I had a meltdown before coming to field hockey tryouts freshman year because I didn’t want to do it,” Ella Wilmsmeyer said. “But (Ana and Olivia) would go out in the backyard and hit the ball with me. It was a little bit of a struggle. but now it’s all good.”
Watching her older sisters play for Rosati-Kain, Isa always knew that she would eventually join them, now cherishing the moments when all four Wilmsmeyer sisters are playing at the same time.
“I think we have some kind of telepathic communication where we just know where each other are on the field,” Isa Wilmsmeyer said.
Murphy has seen first-hand the impact the four sisters have had on the Rosati-Kain program and each other this season.
“Their hearts beat to a competitive rhythm that has been nurtured in them by their parents and by having each other around,” Murphy said.
The Kougars enter the 41st Midwest Tournament with a 2-2 record over their last four games after losing nine of 11 in the middle part of the season. They open postseason play against Kirkwood at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday at Webster Groves High School.
“I feel like we’ve had a bumpy year with the team dynamic, but we’re really coming together and playing the best field hockey we’ve played all season at the perfect time,” Ana said.
For Olivia, who plans to play field hockey in college, wins and losses will eventually pale in comparison to the memories this season has produced.
“This year is special for us,” she said.