High School South’s Tia Saade, recovering from illness, did not play in her team’s home soccer game against Ewing on Sept. 13, 2016, but she was able to work the sidelines recovering balls that went out of bounds. Ewing won the game 4-1. (Photo by Martin Griff.)
High School South’s Tia Saade, recovering from illness, did not play in her team’s home soccer game against Ewing on Sept. 13, 2016, but she was able to work the sidelines recovering balls that went out of bounds. Ewing won the game 4-1. (Photo by Martin Griff.)

Gabby Saade and Tia Saade finally had their chance to play soccer together last season, and the West Windsor sisters made the most of it. Gabby led the High School South girls’ team with 17 goals and 8 assists, and Tia finished second with 7 goals.

While it was Gabby’s fourth year on varsity, it was Tia’s first, and the then-freshman found having her sister there a huge help in transitioning to the new level.

This year, the sisters are separated again on the soccer pitch. It’s what they have been accustomed to for most of their lives. With three years in between them, they have been playing on different club teams—Gabby with the New Jersey Rush 98 Girls Grey NPL and Tia with Mercer FC Santos—and rooting from afar for each other.

“I’ve always been the one sort of teaching her in my footsteps. It was really fun to see her use everything we’ve learned from each other and be able to work with each other,” said Gabby, who finished her senior season by being named as an All-Colonial Valley Conference player.

This year they are taking on new roles for their teams. Gabby has gone from being an all-league player to being a freshman contributor for the Stevens Institute of Technology womens’ team. She has not started, but has played more than half of each of her first five collegiate games.

She got off to a promising start with with three assists in her college debut, a 9-1 win over Ramapo. In her second game, she played 58 minutes as Stevens upset No. 3 Messiah, 2-1. Gabby picked up her first collegiate goal in a 7-0 win over Mount Saint Mary, and Stevens has remained unbeaten with wins over Vassar and NYU.

“We’ve started the season strong beating Messiah and bringing the Engineering Cup home,” Saade said. “Our goal for every game is to play to our potential, and I’d say we’ve been doing a really good job so far.”

It’s been tougher for Tia and the Pirates in the first week and a half of the season. Now a sophomore, Tia missed two of the first three games for WW-P South due to illness. WW-P South lost all three games. They have been thinned by the injury bug on top of graduating their top scorer.

“We’re obviously going to miss her,” Tia said of Gabby. “In some games, she provided the game winners when we couldn’t really do much. This year, we’re looking good, but it’s definitely going to be a loss without my sister.”

Tia has moved to a new position in addition to going back to playing without her sister. Tia is being used on the outside this year.

“It’s a different position but I’m adjusting to it,” Tia said. “I’m still figuring a couple things out, but I’m playing well, I’d like to say, in that position.”

Then-Pirates head coach Allysa Teeter paired the sisters up top as forwards last year. “We weren’t really sure going in how she was going to use us,” Gabby said. “We both knew our strengths, which was both of us are naturally forwards. It just ended up working out at the start and we just continued with it all the way.”

Gabby showed her experience and ability in her best year yet. United with her sister, she more than doubled her 2014 output of six goals and four assists.

In her place, Tia is now one of the leaders for the Pirates. She is the top returning scorer for the Pirates, who also have a new head coach, Chris Trefz, who previously served as JV coach and trained the Pirate girls. He is in his 11th year teaching biology at WW-P South.

He experimented with Tia in a couple of different positions in the preseason, but he foresees her skill set helping WW-P South most on the wing this year.

“She’s an outstanding runner,” Trefz said. “Having her on the outside, she does an incredible job on one side of the field. She doesn’t have to worry about utilizing the entire field. As a center midfielder, you want to be able to turn and go the opposite way, seeing the field from two different directions. As an outside midfielder, Tia only has to see the field one way. Her back is to the sideline and she gets to the see the entire field in front of her.”

Gabby is only 5-foot-3 and Tia is an inch shorter, but both make up for their shorter size with great speed. Tia blossomed as a middle distance runner for the WW-P South track and field team.

“I’m not actually sure if she’s faster than me,” Gabby said. “We haven’t tested that out.”

Tia credits much of her scoring to Gabby’s playmaking. But Gabby was impressed with the way that her younger sister adjusted to varsity play. Tia’s first season was highlighted by the game-winning goal in an upset of Notre Dame last year.

“She had a lot of weight on her back, especially being a sibling to a senior coming in,” Gabby said. “I think she handled it perfectly. I don’t think any other freshmen in in the program has scored that many goals in the season in a while. I’m really proud of her.”

Tia was one of two freshmen — Ria Patel was the other — who started for the Pirates last year. “I learned [that] even if you’re a freshman, you have to go out on the field and think of yourself as an equal to seniors or whoever you’re playing against,” Tia said. “Even if you heard other teams are better, you have to go out believing you can win.”

Their season together was unforgettable, but Tia and Gabby’s next chance to reunite on the field could come in college, three years away for Tia and she isn’t certain where she’ll want to continue her education or if she’ll want to play soccer at the collegiate level. “I also run track and I see another future in that too,” she said.

Until that day should come, the Saade sisters are back to where they have been most of their lives – on different teams, following closely each other’s seasons.

“I’m only an hour away,” Gabby said. “I definitely want to see the team play.”