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Deer Lakes finds dual threat in Kearns twins

Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Twins Nichole (left) and Danielle Kearns have excelled on the soccer field and basketball court for Deer Lakes. Nichole has decided to play basketball for Division III St. Vincent, while Danielle will play soccer at Division II California (Pa.) next year.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Twins Nichole (left) and Danielle Kearns have excelled on the soccer field and basketball court for Deer Lakes. Nichole has decided to play basketball for Division III St. Vincent, while Danielle will play soccer at Division II California (Pa.) next year.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Twins Nichole and Danielle Kearns have excelled on the soccer field and basketball court for Deer Lakes.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Twins Nichole and Danielle Kearns have excelled on the soccer field and basketball court for Deer Lakes.

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By Paul Kogut
Monday, Oct. 8, 2012
 

Deer Lakes seniors Danielle and Nichole Kearns mirror each other in so many ways. But the twins are fraternal, not identical, and they don't do everything the same.

The 17-year-olds excel in soccer and have produced nearly the same significant offensive statistics this season. And they figure to play major roles again this winter for Deer Lakes' basketball team, which has captured two consecutive section titles.

But they picked different colleges and different sports to pursue after high school.

Danielle made a verbal commitment to play soccer at Division II California (Pa.). Nichole, after mulling the decision most of the summer, plans to join the basketball team at Division III St. Vincent.

So this fall and winter will be the curtain call for the Kearns combo, which has been so effective for the Lancers on the soccer field and hardwood.

“It's going to be extremely hard to never play another game with her,” said Danielle, who was born about five minutes before her sister. “But it's exciting to still be playing together. And we'll be going to college and playing.”

The sisters say they share a great relationship outside of athletics but don't mind pushing each other, sometimes with a little oomph, to get better in sports.

“We're best friends,” Nichole said. “We don't criticize each other. But we do correct each other. We can correct each other more than our other teammates. We're usually friendly, though, when we talk to each other (on the field or court).”

The sisters lead the Deer Lakes soccer team in scoring. Nichole has 14 goals and 10 assists, and Danielle almost has matched those totals with 14 goals and seven assists. They've often assisted on each other's scores.

“There's been other players involved (in assists), but me and my sister usually assist each other,” Nichole said. “It's been kind of funny.”

The sisters jumped with both feet into leadership roles for the relatively young soccer team. They make up two-thirds of the seniors, with the other being starting sweeper Ashley McMillen. With those three guiding the way, the Lancers have put together records of 8-5-2 overall and 5-5-2 in Section 2-AA.

“The team rallies around the way they play,” Deer Lakes coach Ande Saporito said about the twins. “I would say Danielle is a little more vocal, and Nichole leads a little more by example. But they both bust their tails for us.”

A starter since her freshman year, Danielle said she began receiving interest from Division I Wright State for soccer before it knew she had made a verbal commitment to Cal. She has played everywhere from forward to defender. Saporito uses her where she is needed most, including marking the other team's top offensive threat.

Nichole, who cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore, has proved versatile as a forward/midfielder. She was being recruited to play soccer by Division III Marietta before choosing a future with the St. Vincent basketball team, which wants her as a point guard.

“I've been playing both sports since I was extremely little,” Nichole said. “It was the toughest decision picking between them. It broke my heart to give up soccer.”

Both sisters earned starting roles in basketball as sophomores. The 5-foot-4 Nichole handled point guard duties and averaged 10.2 points per game last season. Four inches taller, Danielle played forward and provided consistent rebounding and inside scoring.

They are two of three returning starters for Deer Lakes (17-5, 13-1), which claimed the Section 1-AA title. The other is guard Becca Babincak, who averaged a team-leading 15 points per game.

“We're looking forward to this basketball season,” Nichole said.

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pkogut@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.

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