COLUMBIA — On this year’s roster for the Rock Bridge High School girls basketball team, three last names are duplicated. There are two Cheadles, two Porters and two Cunninghams.
The three sets of sisters make up almost half the team, a team that boasts a family atmosphere. When the Bruins talk about family, it’s not just talk. They have the genetics to back it up and have for the past few years.
Last year the team also had three sets of sisters, and there has been a similar family dynamic on the roster in previous seasons.
“In a way it’s kind of not a novelty anymore,” Bruins coach Jill Nagel said. “It’s something that we’re just kind of getting used to.”
Sophomore twins Chayla and Kayla Cheadle are in their second year on the team and have played together in school and on club teams their entire lives. The same is true of sisters Bri and Cierra Porter, who are only one year apart.
Playing high school basketball together is not a new experience for them. It’s just the same routine taking place in a different gym in different uniforms. They’re used to it.
But for senior Lindsey Cunningham and freshman sister Sophie Cunningham, the experience is brand new, and it’s something they have anticipated for a while.
“We’ve been playing against each other in the driveway since we were tiny,” Lindsey Cunningham said. “But to actually get to play together in such a competitive setting, we’ve looked forward to this since I was a freshman. We’ve just been waiting to play together.”
Sophie Cunningham has been waiting on the sidelines for the past three years watching her sister become a standout for the Bruins. She would tag along to her older sister’s practices and even participate at times, but this year she is really part of the team and not just “Lindsey’s little sister.”
Lindsey Cunningham, a 6-foot guard, said she knew what Sophie was capable of and that she would be fine at the high school level but that she was a little protective of Sophie at first. She wanted to make sure that her sister performed at her highest potential and wasn’t intimidated by the upperclassmen.
Sophie Cunningham, also a 6-foot guard, said she wasn’t worried, though, because she had come to know many of the players through her sister before she joined the team.
“I felt like I was already part of the family,” Sophie Cunningham said.
Nagel admitted she wasn’t sure how Lindsey Cunningham, who signed to play for Missouri last month, would handle her sister coming in and sharing the spotlight. As a freshman, Sophie Cunningham is also a standout player and gave her verbal commitment to Missouri over the summer.
“There could be an easy way for there to be some jealousy and some riff there between them,” Nagel said. “But Lindsey loves to see Sophie succeed, and Sophie loves to see Lindsey succeed.”
All three sets of sisters, as well as Nagel, agreed that having so many siblings on one team has really helped with team chemistry, and it’s something they think will give them an advantage this season.
“I think the way that us three sets of sisters do interact rubs off on other people,” Lindsey Cunningham said. “Our biggest thing is making it feel like a family, so when you already have your biological family out there playing, it rubs off.
“I think of all the people that aren’t Sophie as my sister as well. I would say we’re at the point where we’re all sisters really.”