High School Sports

Franklin Academy girls soccer led by trio of Stephan sisters

Franklin Academy's Niamh Stephan attempts a shot during a high school soccer game against Raleigh Charter in Cary, N.C. on Friday, Apr. 21, 2017.
Franklin Academy's Niamh Stephan attempts a shot during a high school soccer game against Raleigh Charter in Cary, N.C. on Friday, Apr. 21, 2017.

Any girls soccer coach would be happy to have Kiera Stephan on the team. She’s a senior, team leader and was a college prospect until a knee injury gave her pause about playing beyond high school.

For Kiera to have one younger sister join her on the team is a bonus for Franklin Academy coach Kambyl Borries. To have three sisters in all is a luxury. Borries hasn’t wasted the advantage with her team as it heads into Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A championship.

The Patriots (22-2) face Community School of Davidson (25-1) at 11 a.m., a rematch of last year’s title – a 5-1 win by CSD. The two teams also played earlier this year, with CSD winning 2-1.

“It’s one of the best things to have sisters on the team,” Borries said. “They’ve been together since young and have an internal connection. They know where they are to string passes together. To have them as a three talented sisters is more than I can ask for.”

The Patriots play senior Kiera Stephan, sophomore Niamh Septhan and freshman Ashlynn Stephan. Kiera and Niamh are forwards and Ashlynn a midfielder/defender.

“I describe having them on the field with me as one of the best things in my life,” Kiera said. “I played by myself as a freshman and sophomore and Niamh joined me as a junior and Ashlynn this year.”

Kiera, as the oldest, naturally led the way playing soccer in youth leagues and then progressing to competitive club soccer’s Capital Area Soccer League. But because they play for different age group teams, Kiera looked ahead to high school soccer as chance to be teammates for the first time.

“I really like the connection that we always have on the field,” Niamh said. “We also spend a lot of time practicing together.”

Both Niamh (an Irish name pronounced NEE-ev) and Ashlynn could have gone their separates ways as talented athletes, but they say they were drawn to soccer as quickly as Kiera once they started playing youth leagues.

“Seeing my sister play I fell in love with the game from my first practice,” Ashlynn said. “I basically follow in their footsteps. Playing with them this year has been the greatest.”

The first soccer separation may come with college. Kiera was considering a college future until she suffered torn knee ligaments in the playoffs of her junior season. She thinks now she’ll focus on school at UNC-Wilmington. But Niamh and Ashlynn are already receiving recruiting mail.

But before college, there is the remainder of their 2017 season, their first and only one as teammates. In a crucial league win over Raleigh Charter on April 21, Ashlynn was the only sister to score one of the team’s four goals.

“That was absolutely amazing for her to score in such an important game,” Kiera said. “I like how our team is spread out and a lot of people on our team can score.”