PARTY GOALS

River Hill twins, hope to cap their var­sity soc­cer ca­reers with ti­tles, and cel­e­brate Ar­gen­tinian style

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Glenn Gra­ham

Rest as­sured, the Elguera fam­ily will have a spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion when twins Ju­lian and Sophia turn 18 on Nov. 15. And while that big birth­day is rea­son enough, Ju­lian and Sophia, cap­tains and star cen­ter backs for the River Hill boys and girls soc­cer teams, re­spec­tively, are bank­ing on hav­ing more to be happy about. As se­niors lead­ers of two of the most pro­lific soc­cer pro­grams in Mary­land, the Elguera twins are de­ter­mined to be do­ing more than blow­ing out can­dles. The state cham­pi­onship games, held Nov. 14-16, will over­lap with their birth­day, and the Hawks boys are aim­ing for their 10th ti­tle while the girls are seek­ing their fourth straight and to ex­tend their state record to 14 over­all.

Ju­lian, who was called up to the var­sity team at the end of his sopho­more sea­son, has felt the sting of two straight state ti­tle-game losses. Sophia, set to be­come a four-year starter, is try­ing to win her fourth ti­tle.

The two come into their sea­sons with dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions, but a com­mon goal.

“Win­ning the state ti­tles is prob­a­bly the best feel­ing I’ve ever had,” said Sophia, who moves to sweeper this sea­son af­ter play­ing on the out­side her first three years. “Just win­ning with your team who has worked re­ally hard for the past four months — run­ning hard ev­ery sin­gle day — and to be re­warded like that is some­thing else.”

The twins will be mak­ing their fi­nal state ti­tle runs as team cap­tains. Ju­lian was ap­pointed Aug. 14, with Sophia get­ting the of­fi­cial word a cou­ple days later.

“It’s unique. I don’t think any­one else can say they have a sis­ter also on var­sity that’s also a cap­tain,” Ju­lian said. “So we’re both re­ally proud of each other and we both push each other.”

In Ar­gentina, where the twins’ par­ents, Jorge and An­drea, are from, soc­cer is a way of life. It be­came the same for Ju­lian and Sophia.

Ju­lian started watch­ing soc­cer with his fa­ther when he was 3-years-old and his knowl­edge and pas­sion for the

game was ap­par­ent when he joined his first recre­ation team at age 6.

Sophia started play­ing a bit later, but it didn’t take long for her to be all in as well.

“She was very lit­tle, but she was ready to go and it was like, ‘Let’s see what hap­pens,’ ” Jorge said. “So they’re play­ing for 30 min­utes and An­drea was there wait­ing for her when the game ended and Sophia was smil­ing and looked at her and said: ‘Mom, it’s in me. It’s in me. I felt it.’ It was pretty amaz­ing.”

The twins sharp­ened their skills to­gether ev­ery chance they got, play­ing in the front yard of the their first home and prac­tic­ing with the back­yard goal at the house they live in now. Over the years, the fam­ily has taken trips to Ar­gentina, where the two play street ball with their cousins, giving them an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what soc­cer means to the cul­ture.

It has been re­flected in their play at River Hill.

They are both highly skilled, in­tu­itive and fierce com­peti­tors. Per­haps most im­por­tantly, they com­pete with a team-first ap­proach.

At 6 feet 2, Ju­lian is fear­less and prides him­self on win­ning ev­ery ball. He reg­u­larly blocks shots and dom­i­nates in the air. His con­sis­tency and hard-nosed play has earned him the trust of his team­mates and coach Matt Sh­a­gogue.

“He’s a kid you can say, this is a two-year JV kid, so he had to work and work re­ally hard, and play his role and wait his time and the time came,” Sh­a­gogue said. “You’re happy for those kids. They did it the right way. They work hard and they earn it. And he’s not go­ing to lose it or let any­body take it from him.”

The Hawks girls won a third straight ti­tle for the fourth time in pro­gram his­tory last fall. A fourth in a row would be un­prece­dented for the pro­gram, and Sophia would be­come River Hill’s first four-year starter to be part of the ac­com­plish­ment.

A mid­fielder on her na­tional cham­pion club team, she has im­pressed River Hill coach Brian Song with her will­ing­ness to play de­fense for the bet­ter­ment of the team.

In her fresh­man year, the Hawks were loaded with ex­pe­ri­enced mid­field­ers, so Sophia ac­cepted a spot at right back. In her se­nior year, she could have asked to move up to mid­field, but un­der­stands that the team needs her more in the back. So when Song told his play­ers on the first day of train­ing to go to the spots on the field where they wanted to play, she lined up at sweeper, where she’ll be re­plac­ing grad­u­ated Al­lMetro selec­tion Danielle Poin­dex­ter.

“That’s shows a lot of ma­tu­rity, know­ing what she needs to do to help the team,” Song said. “If she goes to mid­field, she would have a much bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to score goals and get as­sists and stuff like that for her per­sonal goals. But by stay­ing in the back this year, she is re­ally tak­ing one for the team. That’s in her char­ac­ter.”

Ju­lian and Sophia both know what it takes to reach the ti­tle game. Both River Hill teams started at No. 2 in The Bal­ti­more Sun’s Top 15 pre­sea­son poll, with each poised to make another state ti­tle charge.

Both Ju­lian and Sophia are out­stand­ing stu­dents with plans to play col­lege soc­cer, but they likely won’t be go­ing to the same school. So close with the same cir­cle of friends, next year will be dif­fer­ent and dif­fi­cult for them.

It makes th­ese last high school sea­sons that much more im­por­tant.

As dis­ap­pointed as Ju­lian was af­ter his two state ti­tle-game losses, he was al­ways happy for Sophia’s suc­cess.

And as ex­cited as Sophia was af­ter her state cham­pi­onships, she felt some hurt for Ju­lian.

They hope this year will be dif­fer­ent, with both end­ing their high school ca­reers as cham­pi­ons.

Oh, boy, just imag­ine that cel­e­bra­tion in No­vem­ber.

“Some se­ri­ous claimed.

“Yeah, nuts!” Sophia chimed in.

“It would be a great week,” Ju­lian added. Jorge said that no mat­ter what hap­pens on the field, it will be a big cel­e­bra­tion done Ar­gen­tinian style.

“It’s go­ing to be an asado, which is the typ­i­cal Ar­gen­tinian-type bar­beque,” he said. “I think it’s go­ing to in­clude fire­works with lots of mu­sic and joy be­cause that’s what soc­cer brings to us. It’s about play­ing and shar­ing those mo­ments, so yeah, a big asado would be in or­der.”

stakes,” Ju­lian pro

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Fra­ter­nal twins Ju­lian and Sophia Elguera, 17, both play cen­ter back and are cap­tains for their teams at River Hill.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Twins Ju­lian and Sophia Elguera hope to lead their River Hill teams to state ti­tles. Both are fierce com­peti­tors. The Hawks girls team is seek­ing its fourth straight state cham­pi­onship.

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