Eagles Run in the Family
Dec. 20, 2011
Over the years, Boston College has had its share of sports families. From the Fluties to the Giontas, these families each have their own unique stories. Three sets of siblings shared their stories, discussing everything from their childhoods to what it means to play on the same team at such a high level.
Long before they were able to play on the same hockey team, Joe and Steven Whitney were facing off against each other one-on-one.
Growing up, they would rush home from school to play street hockey out on the cul-de-sac. Sometimes, they would have friends over or their dad or younger brother, Tyler, would join the fray.
But, more often than not, the elder Whitney brothers would find themselves squaring off.
“I’d always want to win,” Joe said, with a laugh. “One time in November, I remember hitting him into a snow bank, and he was just laying there and laughing in this pile of snow.”
Because he’s three years older, Joe says that he had the upper hand for most of their childhood.
“The early years, I used to beat up on him,” he noted. “But then he started beating me and we were pretty even.”
While Joe began skating at two, Steven started at five and didn’t play organized ice hockey until he was nine. When he finally started skating, he would just follow Joe around the ice, and this, along with the hours he spent playing street hockey with his older brother, helped him learn and love the game.
“We both loved hockey,” the junior forward said. “We played street hockey, played on the ponds, all went to each other’s games, so we shared the love of the game and it made it a little bit more special to share it with them.”
The constant competition of their childhood also helped them to develop the edge in their games that made them fan favorites.
“We both wanted to one up each other and have the upper hand so it helped us become competitive,” Joe, who is now playing for the Albany Devils in the AHL, said.
Even if he and Joe had their moments over the years, Steven says that as they moved up hockey’s ladder and played with each other first at Lawrence Academy and then at BC they came to support each other.
“Maybe when we were little [we had more of a rivalry],” Steven said. “I think every kid has that with their siblings, but as we got older and matured a little bit. We were happy to see each other succeed. Joe took me under his wing, both in high school and here [at BC], and showed me the ropes a little bit.”
And, while Joe isn’t quick to admit to his little brother besting him in anything, Steven has him beat in one important respect.
“I like to think I am [taller] but he has an inch or two on me which is pretty sad,” Joe, who stands 5-foot-6, said of his 5-foot-7 brother.
This may be Kristin Igoe’s last lacrosse season, but it’s a first as well.
Unlike Joe Whitney, the graduate student never had the chance to play with her younger sibling, Rachel. Four years apart in age, they didn’t think playing on the same team would be a possibility until Kristin tore her ACL during her freshman season at BC.
“When I got hurt and knew I’d get an extra year, it was really hard at first,” Kristin said. “But then looking down the road, I knew I would be able to play with Rachel, so that was really cool and helped me think of the positives to a bad injury like that.”
While Rachel admits she had some reservations about following her sister to BC this year, she couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play with Kristin, who is now a graduate student.
“I don’t know if I want to follow her footsteps or break away, but I’ve also never had the chance to play with her before,” the freshman explained. “I really wanted to get that chance to play with her after all this time.”
Soccer and basketball players growing up, the Igoe sisters both had late starts in lacrosse. Kristin started playing during her freshman year of high school and Rachel in eighth grade. While they spent their childhood playing soccer together in their backyard, they started practicing lacrosse, mainly playing catch, after they discovered the sport.
After Kristin excelled at all three sports at Framingham High School, Rachel pushed herself to become the best player she could and meet, what she felt at the time, were heightened expectations on the lacrosse field.
“As much as my coach said we weren’t the same person, I felt like we were always compared and I had to be as good,” Rachel said. “But that’s just a mental thing, I think.”
Flash forward to the present, and Kristin is the captain of a deep team and Rachel is a freshman trying to prove herself by working and running her hardest, following her big sister’s advice even though, Kristin says, with a laugh, “sometimes she doesn’t want to hear from [me]."
Even though Rachel is the first to tell you that Kristin is a great role model and Kristin is always happy to give her little sister pointers, they don’t go easy on each other when they find themselves on different teams at practice.
They also have a competition going as well, something their teammates, who often rib Rachel for being the captain’s little sister, enjoy.
“My sister doesn’t know that I can do as many pull-ups as her so we were trying to keep that a secret,” Rachel said. “It’s kind of a competition between us.”
You can’t blame Maria Pandolfo for feeling a little left out growing up when she had to watch every game from the dugout while her older sisters Angela and Danielle took the field.
“I was actually the bat girl when they were playing, and I was always in the shadows,” Maria said. “I always wanted that sister bond that they’d had together, but I think it was good because everything I learned about softball was from watching those two.”
The lessons of her childhood were not lost on the junior outfielder, and she quickly developed into a talented player. After watching her sisters patrol the outfield together for BC while she was still in high school, Maria’s college decision was made much easier because she “had the in and knew exactly how it was.”
“I wanted to keep it in the family,” she said. “Three’s a charm too.”
Going to BC was made even sweeter for Maria because it gave her the chance to finally play with one of her sisters. Like Kristin Igoe, Danielle tore her ACL, and she missed most of her junior season and was given a fifth year of eligibility.
“Having your best friend and someone who’s a part of your family there on the field with you competing, there’s no better feeling,” Maria said. “I don’t think anybody can really realize how important that experience is.”
“At times it was hard because one would play and one wouldn’t and that can get in the middle of things,” Maria explained. “But I think we did a good job and we didn’t let the things that happened on the field interfere with our relationship.”
In the end, Maria nailed down the center field job, and Danielle moved between left and right. Playing side by side was “the best thing ever,” says Maria, and the highlight of the season for her was when they both played in the ACC Championship game.
While Maria says that going to BC now “runs in the family,” the Pandolfo sisters could have ended up down Comm Ave had Angela not decided to go to BC all those years ago.
Growing up wearing Boston University red and white and watching their cousin, Jay Pandolfo, skate for the Terriers before moving on to a successful NHL career, the family had to make some changes after Angela decided to don the maroon and gold of the “hated” Eagles.
“The boys went to BU and the girls went to BC,” Maria said, with a laugh. “It was funny at first because we still have a little BU pride in us but we won’t admit it. We hate BU now.”
Written by Jen Dobias