Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage has scored so many goals this season for Alabama State University that opponents probably think are seeing double. In a way, they are. Her twin sister and teammate Ariela Lewis is just as skilled a scorer.
In fact, no sister act in NCAA Division I soccer has put the ball into the back of the net more than the dynamic due of Alaskans.
The freshmen forwards have combined for 24 goals in 17 games, with Aaliyah netting 15 and Ariela 9.
“It’s exactly what we wanted,” Aaliyah told me, referring to their dream of playing together. “We have worked for years to get this opportunity. It’s just perfection. It’s just like being in high school, but at a higher level. That’s the great part about it.”
The twins were scoring stars at Dimond High School. Last season they finished first [Aaliyah] and second [Ariela] in the Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year voting for high school athletes. The plan all along was to play side by side in college, but that wasn’t a guarantee until Alabama State provided the chance. They couldn’t pass it up.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country is wondering how they got away.
The Lewis girls rank 1-2 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and are among the NCAA leaders in points; Aaliyah has 36 and Ariela 27, point totals most college players would love to have for a career -- never mind a season.
Even better, most of their goals have come from assists from each other.
“She can always find me no matter what,” Aaliyah said. “It’s just something me and her have always been able to do.”
The offensive outburst is why Alabama State has won a school record eight games in a row and are 11-7 overall this season – just two years removed from a disastrous 2-17-1 season.
Those days are long gone. The Lewis twins have made sure of that.
“I am having a blast,” Aaliyah said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team. We are really strong, especially this year. I just try to do my part and make sure we make sure all of our hard work isn’t for nothing.”
Aaliyah ranks sixth in the nation with 15 goals – the most by an Alaskan at the D1 level since Chugiak’s Kelly Cobb of Duke scored 11 in 2011.
“Alabama State gave me a chance and I just want to make sure I’m representing my state the way I should be and getting recognition out there for Alaska,” she said. “Having a sister to push me and my dad and all my great coaches throughout the years … the competitor comes out in me on the field and I know what I’m supposed to do. They brought me in for a reason, and I want to make sure I make it count.”
Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at email@example.com.