When Oregon State soccer visited Arizona last season, Sydney Studer knocked in the go-ahead goal for the Beavers and made a beeline toward her sister in the bleachers.
“That was for you, Jenna!” she shouted.
Jenna Studer was pulling double duty that day. She was supporting Sydney while also rooting for the Wildcats as an Arizona commit. It turns out she’d get the best of both worlds. Sydney scored that goal but UA rallied for a 2-1 win.
“I gave her an earful for that,” Jenna said.
A new chapter in the sibling rivalry will unfold Friday when Oregon State hosts Arizona at 8 p.m. MST. Jenna will be on the pitch this time, starting at center back for the Wildcats. Sydney, a junior and the slightly taller sister, plays the same position for Oregon State. The trash talk is already underway.
“I know we FaceTimed the other day and she’s like, ‘Oh, my coach said I have to mark you on headers,’ and I said, ‘Good luck,’” Sydney said. “I’ve scored on three corner kicks. And if it’s her marking me, I’m gonna want to score more than normal.”
A Studer goal on either side could make the difference in this pivotal Pac-12 game. Both teams need a win. Arizona (4-2) is 0-2 in the conference play for the first time since 2016, losing to No. 4 UCLA and Washington over the past couple weeks. Oregon State (2-4) is playing with confidence but has fallen victim to a brutal schedule.
The Beavers’ last four games were against No. 14 Cal, No. 3 Stanford, No. 13 USC and No. 3 UCLA. They beat Stanford for just the second time in program history, then forced overtime at UCLA where they lost on a penalty kick.
That still stings, so Sydney expects her team to come out even harder on Friday. She sees this match as a “turning point” in their season. Jenna being on the other side just adds more fuel to the fire.
“It’s definitely fun because me and Jenna could get in a fight and then 10 minutes later, we could go, ‘Do you want to go to McDonald’s and get ice cream?’ and be perfectly fine,” Sydney said. “So even if something were to happen, like if she were to score on a corner kick, and I was marking her, I would take it like, ‘oh damn, now I have to score because I can’t let my sister outdo me here.’”
Whether it was playing touch football on the beach or soccer in the house, the Studers grew up in a competitive household in Eastvale, California.
Maybe the only thing they hate more than losing is being compared to each other. They want to forge their own path, to be their own person. That’s why they chose different Pac-12 schools and why Jenna initially experimented with other sports.
Sydney has played soccer and only soccer since she was 3. Jenna tried softball, swimming, basketball, everything. She settled on soccer anyway because she likes the pace of the game and the constant running.
Both sisters use their tall, long frames to win balls and score on set pieces. The similarities in their games used to end there.
“She plays center back now because her school needs her to, but she’s a midfielder,” Jenna said. “So just being in different positions and then being compared like, ‘Oh, she can do this better, you can do this better.’ It’s like, well, we’re different. I’m not her, so being compared to her is just annoying.”
The Studers often played on the same teams as kids, which made those comparisons inescapable. Other than that, they didn’t mind being on the same side. They had strong chemistry on the pitch and their differing skill sets complemented each other nicely.
They spent a season together on the Roosevelt High School varsity team and both won MVP honors. Sydney was team MVP and Jenna was freshman MVP. They even starred for same club team at times because Jenna was skilled enough to hang with Sydney’s age group.
Jenna said Sydney was tough on her but it helped her grow as a player.
“Jenna would frustrate these older girls,” Sydney said. “I mean, one girl punched her one time because she couldn’t get around her.”
As you would expect, Jenna and Sydney have different visions for life after college. Sydney hopes to play professionally. She can’t see herself working a traditional 9-to-5 job. She’s all about soccer.
Jenna would rather work in the medical field. Perhaps as a veterinarian or surgeon. She has always taken her studies seriously, partly because she wanted better grades than Sydney.
“She didn’t care about grades growing up, I did,” Jenna said.
“Right now I have all As, so I might have to challenge her there,” Sydney responded. “She’s the one who calls me for chemistry help.”
Sydney is at least willing to concede that Jenna is the savvier center back. That’s her natural position, whereas Sydney still has to fight the urge to go forward.
But there’s still a lot more Jenna can learn from her sister. Like what it takes to be a productive freshman in the Pac-12. Sydney led Oregon State in minutes in her first season in Corvallis. Even more impressive is that she was only 17. Her parents had to sign all kinds of paperwork so she could play.
“The coach told me, ‘you’re 17 but don’t act like it,’” Sydney said. “Act like you’ve been there as a senior. Don’t let people outdo you in the fitness test. Run the fastest you can. Don’t let anyone knock you off your own game.”
Heeding that advice, Jenna thinks her freshman season has gone “pretty well” with the Wildcats. She has started three of the last four games. The other—vs. UCLA—she was injured.
Friday, she will be tasked with slowing down two dynamic forwards in Brianna McReynolds and McKenzie Weinert. Sydney will have to do the same with Jill Aguilera and Jada Talley.
Because of Oregon State’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Studers won’t have any other relatives at Paul Lorenz Field. Jenna said their family is going to catch the live stream at their grandma’s house back in California.
After the game, the sisters plan to snap a photo together and share it in the family group chat before heading their separate ways. No matter who leaves with the win, it will be a night the Studers won’t forget.
“At the end of the day, we both know that we’re two soccer players at two different schools with 10 different people around us that also can affect our performances and the score line,” Sydney said. “It’s actually really nice because a lot of the time growing up it sucked because we both played the same sport and it’s easy to compare one another. Her going to a different school and getting her own scholarship and her own experience is a lot better for both of us.”