Four siblings aged a year apart — a senior, junior, sophomore and freshman — on the same high school varsity team is so rare it may have never happened before nationally until this year with Marana Mountain View High School’s girls soccer team.
The Gutierrez sisters — senior Keylaney, junior Keylilah, sophomore Keylanna and freshman Keylizah — are key members of the Mountain Lions’ varsity team who play extensively together.
“It’s definitely the first time in Mountain View history,” said their mom Sandra Gutierrez, who was a sophomore with the Mountain Lions when they won the state title in 1995. “I talked with Ms. (Leah) Oliver, who has been an athletic director here since I was here, and she is like, ‘Yeah, this is the first time in any sport that there’s four siblings, all age groups.'”
An archive research of newspapers nationally did not reveal anything similar.
The closest story to the Gutierrez sisters is that of the Rich sisters on the New London-Spicer (Minn.) High School varsity girls basketball team last season.
In that case, however, the sisters included an eighth grader (Dakota) along with a senior (Mackenzie), junior (Courtney) and sophomore (Avery).
How can a middle-schooler play varsity? In Minnesota, that is allowed if the middle school and the high school are under the supervision of the same administrator, which is common with smaller schools. What made that situation even more special for the Rich family was the head coach, Mike Dreier, was the foster parent of the father, Earl Rich.
Also in Minnesota, during the 2016-17 school year, five brothers of the Andres family were on the same varsity high school hockey team at Brainerd but three of them were triplets in the same year. Mitchel was a senior, the triplets Gavin, Wyatt and Riley were sophomores and Westin a freshman.
Another set of triplets playing with a sibling is happening this season with the North Sutton (N.H.) Kearsarge High School boys basketball team with the Stanchfields — senior Chris and juniors Sean, Hunter and Carl.
Watching the Gutierrez sisters play together for coaches Adrian Leon and Efren Peralta at Mountain View is very intriguing because of the rarity. But to the observer who does not know they are related, they appear to be simply close teammates yelling encouragement and directions to each other.
“They have a close bond and fit in with the other girls well,” Peralta said. “You can tell they have a tremendous soccer background because of their parents. That makes everything more natural with them together out there.”
Their father, Luis Gutierrez, a former standout at Pueblo High School, plays in a local men’s soccer league on Sundays. Sandra played at Pima after graduating from Mountain View in 1997.
They watched their daughters play Thursday in a 3-1 loss against visiting Catalina Foothills in a game in which Keylilah scored the Mountain Lions’ goal.
“It’s special to watch them all play together,” Luis said. “That has not happened before this year. One time, three of them played on a youth club team together and (Keylizah, the freshman) was on the bench kind of like a cheerleader.”
Another daughter, Keylayah, who is 8 years old, is a budding soccer player.
The “Key” part of their names stands for the girls being “a key to my heart,” Sandra said.
Keylaney, the senior, is nicknamed “Rae” — her middle name. She carries the role as the mentor or “boss,” as her mom calls her, of the group.
When asked what it’s like to be on the field together, Keylaney said with a smile, “It can be fun or frustrating because I can be harder on them. Especially now, they expect me to bring their bags and stuff to school. And then when they go down, I’m worried but then I have to keep playing. It’s fun … sometimes.”
Keylilah, the junior, is nicknamed “Lala” because she had difficutly saying “Lilah” when she was younger. She is viewed as the coach of the group, often critiquing their play when they go home from practices or games.
She said that it can be “frustrating” sometimes playing with her sisters because of what they expect from each other, “but when they do something good, obviously you’re very proud of them because they’re your sister.”
Keylanna, the sophomore, is in between learning from Keylilah while also consulting Keylizah, the freshman.
“Once we get home, she tells us what we did wrong,” Keylanna said with a laugh pointing at Keylilah. “Even with the oldest (Keylaney) she still corrects her. I try to catch up to her (Keylilah) because, honestly, that’s my goal. And I try to tell her (Keylizah) what to do to get her used to like what (Keylilah) did to me my freshman year.”
Keylizah said she must live up to “very high standards” when on the soccer field with her older sisters.
“Playing with them, I can see what I can do based on what they’re using in-game or their mistakes and what not to do, and that helps me,” Keylizah said.
In a 9-0 win over Amphi on Jan. 18, all four of them scored at least one goal for the first (and only) time together in a match.
Keylaney acheived a hat trick (three goals, which are all of her goals this season), Keylilah had two goals and Keylanna and Keylizah each had one.
Keylilah has four goals this season, which is tied with Brooke Nelson for the team lead. Keylizah has two goals and Keylanna has one.
Keylaney will be moving on to college next school year leaving her sisters behind at Mountain View. The four girls mentioned, again with laughs, they will not attend college together.
That means only two games remain for their time together on the pitch this upcoming week (until maybe an adult league down the road). The Mountain Lions play at Flowing Wells on Tuesday and they host Casa Grande on Thursday to close out the season.
“It’s pretty cool,” Keylaney said of this year’s experience with her sisters. “Since I’m a senior, it’s good that I got to experience it my last year. I’m going to be leaving soon, so I have to spend my last moments of soccer and high school with them.”
Sandra challenged them to repeat the championship run she enjoyed with coach Cynthia Saldamando in 1995 with the Mountain Lions that finished 18-1.
That won’t happen this season (Mountain View is 2-7-1) but Keylilah, Keylanna and Keylizah still have a shot next year, Keylanna and Keylizah in 2024 and Keylizah in 2025. And then, of course, Keylayah, will have the opportunity starting in about five years when she is a freshman.
“They’re good players. They’re good girls. They have good grades,” said Sandra, who knew that 2021-22 would be the special school year her four oldest daughters would play soccer together at her alma mater.
“This is the year I’ve been waiting for. We’re very proud of them.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.