Players: Ellie & Brooke Rice
Getting the opportunity to play Division 1 women’s soccer is already a tough task. Being able to play D1 soccer with your sister is even harder. That’s what Brooke and Ellie Rice did for two years at Santa Clara before the younger Rice, Brooke, decided to transfer to the University of Colorado. The duo from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, won the Utah State Cup together in 2008-2009, and then when Ellie moved on to Santa Clara, Brooke kept the winning tradition going by winning it again in 2009 and 2010.
While Brooke was continuing the winning tradition at the club level, at Santa Clara, Ellie earned All-WCC honorable mention as a freshman, and then when baby sis arrived on campus the following year, she improved to All-WCC Second-Team. Ellie’s junior year featured plenty of action for both Rice sisters. Ellie started in all 21 games with Brooke appearing in 20 and Santa Clara made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But that would be the last time the two would play on the collegiate level together. Brooke decided to take her talents to Colorado, and play for new head coach Danny Sanchez, the former Wyoming coach who coached the oldest Rice sister, Nicole. A family of athletes, father Joe Rice ran the 800 meter while he was at Clemson and now has had three daughters play Division 1 soccer.
Ellie went on to another NCAA appearance her senior year (she made the tournament all four), while Brooke came into Colorado and made an immediate impact despite battling injuries early in the season. Brooke’s senior year stamped her as a regular starter and a creative defender who could run the wing exceptionally well when needed. It ended with Colorado making it to the second round the NCAAs before a heartbreaking loss to North Carolina in overtime. The two athletic Rice’s are now pursuing careers in soccer and both tried out from the NWSL’s Houston Dash and continue to play and coach the game they love. Here are 18 questions with Brooke and Ellie Rice!
How old are you two?
Ellie: I am 23 years old.
Brooke: I am 22 years old.
How did you two get into soccer?
Ellie: My parents. We were thrown into almost every sport when we were young, however soccer is one of the ones that "stuck".
Brooke: I started playing when I was five years old because Ellie and my other sister Nicole were playing. So I obviously wanted to join.
What's one skill you think every player needs to cultivate?
Ellie: Being mentally tough. I think this is the number one skill that separates players from every next level. At the highest level, everyone is great. It's those who have the mental toughness that separate themselves and stand out.
Brooke: Being able to play with both feet comfortably.
Who were your soccer heroes growing up?
Ellie: Mia Hamm, Leo Messi, and one my former coach's as Santa Clara, Brandie Chastain.
Brooke: Growing up it was definitely Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers on the women's side. Not only because of the way they played, but also their mentality for the game. On the men's side I loved Ronaldinho from Brazil, I would watch Youtube videos of him all the time.
So you both played defense in college, but your oldest sister, Nicole, played forward. When you three play, what's the competition like?
Ellie: The competition between us is always pretty intense, but we always want to help each other out in the end. We compete hard to make each other better, but we do get a little emotional because we all want to win. It's great because we always have someone to play against, make us better, and be there for each other when we need it.
Brooke: I think a lot people would think the competition wouldn't be too intense but all three of us are very competitive. When we play together we're always trying to make the other one better, so it does get competitive.
You two both played for Santa Clara in 2011 and 2012, what was that like having your sister on the team?
Ellie: The best experience in the world. I got to have my best friend with me all the time. We also know each other really well on the field, so we play great together.
Brooke: That was the main reason I went to Santa Clara. Ellie and I wanted to always play college soccer together so when she was looking at schools I was also kinda looking as well. We both agreed on Santa Clara and having Ellie on the team was a childhood dream. It was so nice having an older sister who had already experienced a year of college soccer and playing at such a high level. Playing with someone like your sister is pretty memorable.
Did you guys ever get annoyed with each other on or off the pitch? Tell us about the last time that happened.
Ellie: Very rarely did I ever get annoyed at her. I think one time I got annoyed because she wouldn't come over my house as much as I wanted her too (laughs). But looking back I really wanted her there every day which wasn't really realistic haha.
Brooke: Definitely. I think it's normal to get annoyed of your siblings in general. On the field I would only get annoyed with Ellie in practice if she would do something better than me, but that's the competitiveness coming out in me. The last time I got annoyed with Ellie was probably the last time we trained together because we always do 1v1 and I would get annoyed when I didn't score on her because afterwards she would just laugh about it.
Brooke you transferred your junior year, why did you decide to transfer and what were you thinking Ellie?
Ellie: I was like wow, my sister has got real courage and bravery for going through with all of this and it honestly made me look up to her. I was really sad to see her go, but I knew it was what was best for her. So aside from that it made me extremely happy for her.
Brooke: I decided to transfer because I wanted to get more out of my college soccer experience. I realized I only had one chance to play college soccer and I wanted to make it the best it could be and I felt like I wasn't getting that. Santa Clara was amazing and it was a really tough decision. I had a lot of really close team mates but when Danny Sanchez got the head coaching job at Colorado it made the opportunity that much more exciting. He coached my older sister Nicole at University of Wyoming and I always thought he was a great coach.
Your parents had it easy for traveling with you two on the same team. How did that change once Brooke decided to transfer?
Ellie: They would literally fly back and forth throughout the weekend. They might be in SCU Friday, then Boulder on Sunday. I don't know how they did it but they certainly made it work and I am so thankful that I have parents that could and wanted to do that. They do so much for us.
Brooke: Oh yeah they had it super easy, I think it was a parents dream. It changed but they were great at balancing it. Ellie was in her senior season when I transferred and I was a junior. They would switch off weekends or sometimes Ellie would have Thursday/Saturday games and I would have Friday/Sunday so they would literally travel from place to place to see at least one game of the weekend. It became more difficult but we both understood and supported each other.
What is your greatest moment on the pitch together?
Ellie: One that sticks out to me is when Brooke scored at Santa Clara and we were both on the field together. The other time was getting to start and play right beside her at Santa Clara
Brooke: For me, it was starting together at Santa Clara. One game we were playing Boston University and Ellie started at outside right back and I started at outside right mid, so I was playing right in front her. I think that memory was one of the most vivid moments of my soccer career.
What do you think is your sisters best quality/skill on the pitch?
Ellie: I would say her fitness, work ethic, attitude, and mental toughness. There is something about her that she won't take any crap from anyone once she gets on the field.
Brooke: Ellie has endurance like no other and an incredible work ethic. Skill wise, she is really good at heading and has great vision.
Where do you think your sister can improve?
Ellie: Maybe on her heading. It's not bad I promise! I just think it could get better.
Brooke: I think Ellie could improve on having a little more of an edge on the field. That means being a little cocky but carrying it with confidence. I think every athlete needs that.
What is your advice to young soccer girls who want to play professionally?
Ellie: To not wait around for someone else to get you there. Put it in your hands to practice on your own and work on the things you need to work on. Also, to believe. Believe that you are the best and that you will make it. No one can turn down someone's ability to just want something so bad.
Brooke: My advice would to be to believe in yourself. I know that sounds cliche but it's true. If you truly believe you're the best and can do it, then you can. I also would say to never stop enjoying the game. Soccer is a really fun sport but once you take away the reason you started playing, it takes away the passion.
What music do you listen to before matches?
Ellie: Pretty much all types.
Brooke: I definitely have a set amount of songs I listen to, I am not sure what to classify them as. I listen to upbeat music. It's more about the beat then the lyrics for me.
Where does your motivation come from while your playing?
Ellie: To make my family and friends proud. Also to make myself proud and prove it to myself. I want to keep getting better while overcoming barriers each day. I want learn new things that will help me as a person as I go though life. Soccer is a sport however, it's a game that has taught me more about life than I ever thought it would.
Brooke: Every time I go out on the field I think of it as another opportunity to do something I love. What inspires me is thinking back to all the sacrifices I made to get to where I am, and realizing where I have always dreamed of going. My dad also inspires me, he's been there since the beginning.
What do you value most in your teammates?
Ellie: Their friendship, support, and always making me better. At Santa Clara, the bond I have with those girls is amazing. We were and still are so close, and sometimes I don't know what I would do without them.
Brooke: Their willingness to want to compete and win. More than anything I value a teammate who works super hard. You can't teach hard work, that comes from within.
What other sports and activities do you enjoy when you're not playing soccer?
Ellie: Running, biking, hiking, skiing, reading, cooking, and anything to do with nutrition because I love that field!
Brooke: I love all sports. I enjoy playing basketball and I love to hike as well. Really anything that involves being outside. I also love to cook and bake when I have some down time!
What's the next step for the Rice sisters?
Ellie: Right now I'm working on becoming a nutritionist, and also coaching back home with Brooke. We'll see where it takes us!
Brooke: We are both back home coaching right now. It's a nice thing to do that we both enjoy and it's great giving back. I'm also helping with the family business looking for my next move.