Twin tandem fuels women’s soccer success

The 2010 campaign was a historic one for the Butler women’s soccer program.

After winning just three of its first 12 games, the Bulldogs finished the remainder of the season 6-2, and claimed the school’s first regular season conference title since 1996.

Butler head coach Tari St. John earned Horizon League Coach of the Year for it, but she didn’t do it alone.

Among a youthful starting lineup, which included on average seven freshmen, were the first two sets of twins in program history: Mary and Molly Allen and Jackie and Nikki Hafele.

The Allens, identical twins from Cincinnati were three-year letter-winners at St. Ursuline Academy.

Similarly, the Hafeles were standouts at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Ky., where they led Sacred Heart to three state championships.

When St. John began recruiting the four girls, she curbed her expectations.

“I didn’t think that we would land all four,” St. John said. “I joked with my staff that it was very economical recruiting.”

Luckily for St. John and her staff, both sets of twins were drawn to Butler.

“For me, I liked the campus and the small class sizes,” Nikki said. “You get a lot of attention.”

As fate would have it, each twin decided to share a room with her sister.
Not only that, but the Allens and Hafeles were assigned to be next-door neighbors.

That close proximity on and off the field, paired with being able to relate to one another, allowed the twins to develop a special friendship.

“Sometimes, we all four walk around campus together,” Jackie said. “People are just like, ’Whoa, what’s going on?’”

Despite their many similarities, St. John has noticed some differences when the girls are on the field.

“[Jackie] is wise beyond her years and provides a certain steadiness for our team,” St. John said. “Nikki, on the other hand, is more of a free spirit.

“She is very expressive while playing, which is funny because she is very low key and quiet off the field.”

As freshmen, the twins made a drastic impact for the Bulldogs.

Jackie was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and Nikki joined her on the All-Newcomer team.

With help from the Allens and Hafeles, Butler was within a single game of clinching a berth in the NCAA tournament.

St. John’s squad is primed and ready for another strong season in 2011 and she recognized the tight-knit bond that the twins have helped the team achieve.

“Having that faction of our team that is related has provided a family-like community for our team,” St. John said.

St. John had never before coached a set of twins prior to this year.

Now, she is coaching two, and the pairs of twins are helping to write an exciting new chapter for Butler women’s soccer.

On the field, the Allens and Hafeles are more than just merely the stereotypical twins, but their background and connections to each other have brought something more to Butler.

“It’s not their identity to be twins,” St. John said. “But, at the same time, I think there are a lot of good things that come from having a twin sister around to pick you up.”