Four years ago, sisters Kaysie and Kaitlyn Clark helped Liberty win a Missouri Class 3 girls soccer championship.
It was a rare opportunity for Kaysie, then a high school senior, to play alongside her younger sister Kaitlyn, then a Blue Jays freshman.
The Clark sisters were reunited this season at Missouri and begin another championship chase Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference women’s soccer tournament.
The fourth-seeded Tigers, 11-5-3 and 6-4-1 in the SEC, square off with No. 17 South Carolina at 7:30 p.m. in the tournament’s second round at the Orange Beach (Ala.) SportsPlex. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
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Now, each game could be the last Kaysie and Kaitlyn ever play together, a fact that isn’t lost on the Clark sisters.
“It’s really hit me a lot and I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” Kaysie said. “I try not to think about it, because it’s pretty bittersweet. We definitely want to make the most of the season and hopefully get a ring.”
Kaysie, 21, and Kaitlyn, 19, were born were born two years and nine months apart — the daughters of Carrie and Doug, who is a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army and a helicopter pilot for a Stormont-Vail HealthCare Hospital in Topeka.
“They’ve always been very close,” Carrie said. “With Doug being in the military and deployed, he’s been deployed three times now, so they’re very tight-knit.”
Soccer has always been one of the greatest unifying forces for the Clark sisters, but, because of the age difference, they seldom play together growing up on the club circuit.
“When I first figured out that I was coming (to MU), I was just excited to play one more year with her,” Kaitlyn said. “That was one of the biggest reasons I came here actually.”
Four years ago, Kaysie turned down an invitation to attend training camp with the U.S. women’s under-20 team that would have required her to miss the 2011 state championship game, believing it was Kaitlyn’s best — and as it turns out only — chance to win a title.
Kaitlyn had the game-tying assist in the 77th minute of a 2-1 overtime victory against Ursuline Academy, a win the Clark sisters call their best memory together on the field.
Playing together at Missouri afforded the opportunity to create a few more memories, even if it was accompanied by occasional sisterly shenanigans.
“Sometimes, she puts my dirty laundry out there, but then I get her back, so it’s OK,” Kaysie said.
Kaitlyn explained, “Sometimes, I just like to be annoying and all up in her space and all up in her business.”
It’s never mean-spirited and any hassles are far outweighed by the benefits.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Kaysie said. “I wouldn’t trade the experience.”
On the field, Kaysie, a first-team All-SEC who led the Tigers with 10 assists and added three goals, and Kaitlyn, who made the All-SEC freshman team after totaling two goals and four assists, elevate one another’s game.
The Clark sisters’ rivalry helps inspire the Tigers as a whole, too.
“Kaysie’s just feisty,” said senior Taylor Grant, who led MU with seven goals this season. “It’s good at practices when they go against each other, because it’s an all-out battle. That’s great, because they’re making each other better when they’re doing it.”