By Janee Law
With focused, brown eyes and smiling pearly whites, twin sisters Arianna and Olivia Sabatino lace up their cleats and affix their brown, wavy hair into a ponytail before hitting the soccer field.
The twins, who hail from Dix Hills and used to suit up as Colts on the girls soccer team at Half Hollow Hills High School West, today take the field as Shorewomen of Washington College.
Once they get on the field, spectators, and perhaps even their opponents, might think they’re seeing double. But, as the pair shows off their skills and unique connection on the field, it quickly becomes apparent that the duo is very much real.
“We completely read the other one’s movement on the field and have a perfect connection without even having to talk or think about it,” said Arianna, 19, older than her sister by four minutes. “We just know where the other one is going to be.”
The twins’ sophomore season concluded this fall with the Shorewomen maintaining a 5-10-1 overall record. The Sabatinos suited up together for 15 of the team’s 16 games -- Arianna missed one game.
Olivia, also 19, tied a school record for assists in a single season with six; the total was also good for fifth-most in the Centennial Conference, the NCAA DIII conference that the Shorewomen compete in. Olivia also scored five goals to finish the season with 16 points -- most on the team.
Arianna, a team captain, meanwhile, led the team in goals with seven and also dished out one assist. She finished with 15 points.
This season, the twins connected three times on an assist from Olivia that resulted in a goal by Arianna.
On the field, Olivia switches between both midfielder and forward, sports the number 18 and usually wears grey Nike cleats, with neon green accents. Perhaps to differentiate themselves, Arianna wore the number 13 and fashioned light blue Nike cleats with lime green accents.
The twins landed at Washington College, which is joined located in Chestertown, Maryland, after graduating from Hills West in 2015. They’re currently relaxing at their home in Dix Hills over winter break.
When they were Colts, practicing on the field at High School West, Olivia said, the twins would typically split off from each other during team practices. This was done since it wouldn’t be considered “fair” to have the twins on the same team during scrimmages, due to their similar skillset and ability “to work together so well,” Olivia said.
When they were on different teams, the duo’s competitiveness intensified.
“We would always try to outdo each other,” Olivia said. “Not only did it make us more competitive and have more energy, it made both teams feed off of the energy.”
Arianna chimed in, “We always want to compete and be better than the other.
“Knowing that she’s on the field makes me want to work harder because I know she’ll be working super hard also.”
This has been going on since the twins turned 3. That’s when they picked the sport, and quickly established their roles in the midfield of whichever team they played on. They’ve played on several travel teams throughout their careers, including in Levittown, Dix Hills, Farmingdale and Brentwood. While the team’s changed, one thing didn’t. The twins have always played together on the same team.
All of that exposure to each other has created a respect between the two in terms of their evaluation of the other’s skills and determination.
Arianna said her sister is one of the hardest working people she knows.
“On the field, she always finds a way to surprise me with a move, an extra burst of speed or an extra push towards the end of the game,” she said. Olivia is “always consistently training and playing at a high level.”
In the same respect, Olivia said that Arianna is an incredible athlete and the most reliable player she’s ever played with.
“She’ll always get the job done and always gives 100 percent,” Olivia said. “I know she expects me to give everything I have, and I expect her to do the same thing. I want to do that for her and my teammates.”
The twins also share similar interests outside of soccer.
Arianna said they both knew they wanted to play soccer and major in biology in college, which is what led them to Washington College. On campus, the duo is also part of several student organizations, such as Presidential Fellows, Habitat for Humanity, Helping Hands, Art History Club and Animal Impact.
Arianna maintains a 3.88 GPA. She earned 2016 Academic All-Centennial honors, which she achieved by making both the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll and the All-Centennial Conference team. Olivia also made the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll with her 3.75 GPA.
But on the soccer field, the twins sometimes rely on instincts, opposed to their soccer smarts.
One thing Olivia finds special about the connection she has with her sister on the field is their ability to know where the other will be at any given moment.
“There were a couple of times this season where I was able to play the ball through the defensive backline without having to look to see if she was going there because I knew she was there,” Olivia said. “That connection we have is very rare to find.
“I think that helps set us apart and make our team more successful.”