As Maryland women’s soccer midfielder Cassie Phillips prepared for a goal kick in the team’s game against Michigan State last October, she glared at the player lined up across from her.
She couldn’t stay intense for long, though, because the opponent was her sister, Kaylee, a Spartans midfielder. As Phillips turned to field the kick, the two laughed. Their smiles continued as the two center midfielders jumped for possession and bumped into one another.
Maryland’s 1-0 win over Michigan State at Ludwig Field last season was the first time Phillips, a Hartland, Michigan, native, faced her sister in a Terps uniform. She’ll have another chance when the Terps play the Spartans at DeMartin Soccer Stadium on Thursday.
Phillips will face her sister in their home state for the first time, but their on-field rivalry isn’t anything new.
“I’m definitely excited because I get to go home, but they’ll be hungrier this time against us,” Phillips said. “I know that they have a lot of great players on their team. It’s a good feeling to be playing somewhere I’ve grown up playing. It’s just that familiar feeling that makes me feel at ease.”
As kids, Phillips, her sister and their younger brother would scrimmage in their yard. The trio would warm up together and review different drills. Then, the practices would get competitive.
Often, Kaylee would be left to defend the other two. They would lose track of time. Inevitably, their mom, Kim, said, someone would wind up hurt.
Because her parents went to Michigan State, and her dad, Tony, played soccer for the Spartans, Phillips grew up familiar the program. When deciding on a college, however, she wanted to “get away from her roots,” her mom said.
At first, Phillips considered Notre Dame. Because the Spartans and Fighting Irish weren’t in the same conference, the sisters wouldn’t square off. As Kaylee, now a redshirt junior, gained college experience, she shared tips with Phillips.
But then Phillips decided to attend this university, which meant facing her sister as Big Ten does. The advice quickly became less specific.
“I never really thought [about them playing against each other],” Kim said. “It would have been great for them to both play on the same team. Cassie wanted to go explore and do different things. It’s fun and exciting.”
On occasion as kids, Cassie and Kaylee would pick characters from Disney movies, such as The Little Mermaid, and sing their parts. Kaylee would always choose first, and Phillips wouldn’t have a choice. Her sister always assigned her role and Phillips never hesitated to accept it.
Now, as both contribute to their respective teams — Phillips has started all but one of Maryland’s contests and her sister has logged 212 minutes with Michigan State — their demeanors haven’t changed.
“Kaylee is the more talkative and outgoing personality,” said her dad, who expects about 30 family members and friends to attend Thursday’s match. “Off the field, Cassie is more reserved and quiet. But they’re almost complete opposites on the soccer field. Cassie is much more aggressive attacking, and Kaylee is more of a defensive player.”
The sisters have exchanged some text messages this week, talking about their excitement for their rematch.
As the Terps reviewed film, Phillips has pointed out her sister’s tendencies. She also grew up playing recreational and club soccer with several players on Michigan State and Michigan — which the Terps face Sunday — and has provided insight about them, too.
“It’s definitely different when you know the players,” Phillips said. “It gives you a great visual of what they’re going to do.”
When Maryland faced Michigan State last season, Phillips said she was nervous to face a Spartans team that featured several familiar faces as a freshman. Now, she has experience.
As the two battled last year, they shared a few jokes and a little small talk, just like their childhood games in front of their house. The second time around, they’re expecting it to be the same.
“I’m not going to play it soft on her, and hopefully she doesn’t play it soft on me,” Kaylee said. “[Last year], even though we were playing in different uniforms, it felt like we weren’t. I felt like we were back in the yard again playing one-v-one. I’m just excited to see the matchup.”