After she would get home from watching her older sister's indoor field hockey practices, McKenzie Raech would go into the basement.
On a whiteboard, she would draw the plays she had just watched Emily Raech and her Horizon Field Hockey Club teammates execute.
"Just watching her and all the skills she had, it looked so cool when she would pull right and go around a defender and shoot and score and how happy she was," McKenzie said.
For McKenzie, the passion for the sport was in its early stages. She attended field hockey camps during the summer, but didn't play on a team until she began seventh grade at Strath Haven Middle School in 2015.
She's made great strides. This season, the sisters are on the same team, part of the same plays. Emily is a junior and McKenzie a freshman for Strath Haven. The younger Raech has done a solid job stepping into the role vacated by Valerie Henderson, now a freshman forward at Division III Johns Hopkins, scoring six goals and adding 10 assists as Strath Haven went 10-9-2 overall and 7-3-1 in the Central League.
The sisters started every game in the just-completed season and combined for 20 goals and 24 assists. Emily, an Old Dominion University lacrosse recruit who earned second-team Central League honors in field hockey this season, got off to a fast start with 10 goals through the Panthers' first 10 games.
The Raechs have been a solid fit in coach Carly Reid's "triangle-support system" because it allows the sisters to be on the same side of the field. And it's a big help to the sisters as Emily is able to yell instructions to her younger sister when she receives the ball.
The fit into the triangle wasn't instant. The sisters didn't play on the same side of the field until the third or fourth game, McKenzie said. But the switch, she said, has helped her progress from initially being "scared to have the ball" to a place of more comfort.
"I told her that it was going to be a rough start getting used to the pace of the game and just trying to keep up the positivity," Emily said of her sister. "But I also reminded her that it's a big responsibility as a freshman to fill the role of a senior that just graduated and has been on the team for four years."
Emily Raech, playing the role of big sister and teammate, had an opportunity for a four-goal game on Sept. 12 against Marple Newtown. She was able to maneuver around a defender and, instead of shooting, she passed the ball to her sister, who was open while cutting toward the cage. The pass arrived perfectly, and McKenzie put it in the cage for her first varsity goal: assist Emily Raech.
"It was a great compliment to how they have been working all season," Reid said.