January 17, 2011

Butler Women's Soccer Has Double Vision

The 2010-11 campaign was a historic one for the Butler women’s soccer program.

After starting the season with just three wins in 12 games, head coach Tari St. John led her Bulldogs to finish 6-2 and claim the school’s first regular season conference title since 1996.

However, while St. John earned Horizon League Coach of the Year for her efforts, she didn’t do it alone.

A driving force behind Butler’s success on the field was the team’s youth. An average of seven freshmen took the field as starters each match.

Highlighting the freshmen class were two sets of twins: Mary and Molly Allen and Jackie and Nikki Hafele.

All four girls were highly-touted recruits and enjoyed immense success on the pitch in high school.

The Allen sisters, identical twins from Cincinnati, Ohio, were three-year letterwinners at St. Ursuline Academy. While there, Mary and Molly participated in the Nike All-Star High School Invitational Showcase.

Similarly, the Hafeles were standouts at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Ky., where they led Sacred Heart to three state championships.

When coach St. John began recruiting the four girls, she curbed her expectations. “I didn’t think that we would land all four,” St. John said. “I joked with my staff that it was very economical recruiting.”

But luckily for St. John and her staff, both sets of the twins were drawn to Butler University.

“For me, I liked the campus and the small class sizes,” Nikki Hafele said. “You get a lot of attention.”

Prior to the Allens and Hafeles, there had been no other twins play soccer at Butler.

“I had no idea that there was another set of twins coming,” Mary said. “I e-mailed them in the summer to see if they would be rooming together at Butler because Molly and I hadn’t decided yet.”

As fate would have it, each twin did decide to share a room with her sister. Not only that, but the Allens and Hafeles were assigned to be next-door neighbors. That close proximity, on and off the field, paired with being able to relate to one another, allowed the twins developed a special friendship.

“They definitely have a connection,” St. John said. “I see them eating lunch together and hanging out.”

Jackie even admitted to a little “twin tomfoolery.” “Sometimes, we all four walk around campus together,” Jackie said. “People are just like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’

Butler students often give the twins double takes, but they aren’t the only ones. 

For the Allens, it is difficult for their own family members to tell them apart.

“Our grandpa can’t even tell us apart,” Molly said. “He just calls us the girls.

Despite their many similarities St. John has been able to notice some differences when the girls are on the field.

“Jackie has this independence about her,” St. John said. “She is wise beyond her years and provides a certain steadiness for our team. “Nikki, on the other hand, is more of a free spirit. She is very expressive while playing, which is funny because she is very low key and quiet off the field.”

In just their first year at Butler, the twins have made a drastic impact for the Bulldogs. Jackie was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and her sister, Nikki, joined her on the newcomer team.

The Bulldogs traveled to Wisconsin on Oct. 10 for a showdown with the Milwaukee Panthers, a perennial power in the Horizon League. Butler shocked the Panthers, 1-0, and handed Milwaukee its first home loss to a conference opponent in 12 years.

Sophomore forward Katie Griswold scored the deciding goal and was assisted by no other than Mary Allen and Jackie Hafele. The victory was the tie-breaker that won the regular season Horizon League title. 

With help from the Allens and Hafeles, Butler got to within a single game of clinching a berth in the NCAA tournament. St. John’s squad is primed and ready for another strong season in 2011, and she recognized the tight-knit bond that the twins have helped the team achieve.

“Having that faction of our team that is related has provided a family-like community for our team,” St. John said.

St. John had never before coached a set of twins prior to this year. Now, she is coaching two, and the pair of twins is helping write an exciting new chapter for Butler soccer.

On the field, the Allens and Hafeles don’t want to be categorized as merely twins.

“It’s not their identity to be a twin,” St. John said. “But at the same time, I think there are a lot of good things that come from having a twin sister around to pick you up.”

--story by Lance Rinker