Battle on lacrosse field
Tyler and Taylor Thomas gallop down the field against the University of Tampa with blistering pace and grace. Taylor holds the rock hard lacrosse ball in the webbing of her stick and notices Tyler to her left, but not with her eyes.
Taylor accelerates toward the goaltender and in an instant scoots a pass at the perfect moment to her twin sister and teammate. She didn’t have to look. She didn’t have to speak. Tyler scored.
Tyler and Taylor Thomas are two senior members of the Rollins women’s lacrosse team, known nationally for its prowess as a potent program that currently ranks No. 4 in the country in the NCAA Division II polls. The two of them have been playing organized sports with each other since they were both 3 years old, and have been in sync ever since.
“It is pretty easy to take the field with Taylor by my side. We both have a pretty good read on what either one of us is going to do next and that has really come from playing so many years together.” Tyler said.
The Thomas sisters began the journey through middle school, travel ball and at Lake Highland Prep in hometown Winter Park to get where they are now — Rollins seniors trying to make one final leap to a national title.
During the twins’ time at Rollins, the team has amassed a 37-15 record that includes two trips to the NCAA tournament and a final-four appearance in 2013, when the Tars lost in double overtime.
“They were contacted by several schools but in the final analysis they both only wanted to play for Coach Dennis Short and Coach T.K. Kienle at Rollins. It was an excellent decision,” father Tommy Thomas said. “While I am proud of their play on the field, I’m most proud of the fact that they are both good citizens.”
The pair of Rollins stars remember their favorite moments as Tars unselfishly. Tyler could have chosen any of the 39 goals that she’s scored in just 15 games this season or the tournament appearances that she has taken part in. Rather, she focuses on something else.
“The Tampa game last year,” Tyler said. “It was right after one of the (Rollins) men’s lacrosse players had passed away, Will Hauver, and we played for Will. We knew that he would want to have fun and leave it all out on the field. Everything was clicking that day and everyone was having so much fun and lifting each other up and it was really great.”
Tyler could very well be the most accomplished player in Rollins women’s lacrosse history. She surpassed Erica Pagliarulo’s tally of 162 goals for her career, and has helped propel the program forward as a national power. She and Taylor were freshmen and big contributors on the 2013 Rollins team that reached the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
If Rollins wants to try to reach and exceed that point this season, the stepping-stone is the Sunshine State Conference Tournament starting on April 29. This year in their final try the sisters and the coaching staff hope that it extends to a bid to the NCAA Tournament on May 13.
“I can’t believe it,” head coach Dennis Short said. “It’s gone very, very quickly but these guys are just such high character kids. You talk about their athletic ability and everything on the field, but who they are as individuals and how they behave…you want everybody on your team to act that way.”
Tyler has been playing beside Taylor since she was practically in diapers, and over the course of 19 years of playing side-by-side, the connection between them has led to good results and good chemistry, both on and off the field.
The two live with each other in a house off-campus. They’re each an integral part of each other’s daily lives in every imaginable way.
“You become very used to playing with each other,” Taylor said. “I think out of everyone on the field, Tyler is one person I really don't need to talk to for her to know what I want to do.”
There is talk around the team about the two having a kind of “twin telepathy.” Tyler says that her and her sister are always on the same page. In the past, Tyler has gone down with injuries, but Taylor always knows when she’s OK. Others will panic, but Taylor knows. “She’ll be fine,” she says.
They know each other’s patterns and what’s about to come next. There’s never a surprise because after so many games and so many years, the twins have found a way to always be connected.
It’s the kind of connection that is hard to envision unless you’re in their cleats, and as they wear them for the last few times as Tars, they begin to look forward to the future.
Tyler will be starting at Stetson University working toward a CPA degree. She says that her classes begin just four days after her Rollins graduation.
Taylor has been accepted to the University of Florida’s law school.
“It will be the first time that they’ve ever been apart,” their father said. “But something tells me it won’t be the last.”