March 24, 2011

Sister, Sister: Steinberg Twins Exchange Clutch Moments for Different Teams

by Justin Feil |

Ali Steinberg, one of Rutgers' top options off the draw and a defensive presence for the Scarlet Knights, has added offense to her repertoire with 13 goals this season -- including the game-winner at UConn.

© Tom Ciszek/Rutgers Athletics

After Jessi Steinberg scored the game-winning goal in Cornell's 6-5 overtime against Notre Dame on Sunday, she got a phone call from her sister Ali.

"You couldn't let me have all the glory," Ali told to her identical twin.

Less than 24 hours before, Ali had scored the game-winner, the first of her career, with just six seconds left in Rutgers' 10-9 win at Connecticut on Saturday.

Jessi also had called to congratulate Ali after the win, but had no idea she too would be delivering a game-winner the next day, one that she called the biggest of her college career.

"I wasn't thinking about her," Jessi said. "Our team needed the win really bad. During the sudden death, there was an opening and I took it. Ali was not in my mind."

The goals were big for both of their teams. Ali's goal on Saturday, her third of the game, helped Rutgers improve to 6-2 overall while opening the Big East conference schedule with a win.

"We actually didn't have the ball," Ali said. "Rebecca Alley made a really big steal on defense. With that, we were able to hold the ball on offense and try to kill the clock for one last shot. Without that turnover, who knows what would have happened?

"It felt pretty good. I got crushed that game. I hadn't scored yet in the second half. I was just trying to find the back of the net. I was pretty frustrated until then."

Jessi's game-winner gave Cornell its first win this season over a ranked team and pulled them back to .500 at 3-3 going into Wednesday's scheduled game at No. 3 North Carolina.

"I think it was definitely nice to get a win against a ranked team going into another game against a ranked team," Jessi said. "It shows what our team is capable of. It's nice to move forward with that."

It's not the first time that they have seemed to be trying to outdo each other. Last year, Jessi tied the Cornell single-game mark for draw controls with eight in a loss to nationally ranked Hofstra. Less than one month later, Ali posted a new Rutgers single-game draw control record of 10 against UConn.

"We're not really competitive like that," Ali said. "We mess around with it. We never take it seriously."

The juniors have met in each of their first three seasons, and it's Ali that holds the upper hand after an 11-7 win on Feb. 26 at Cornell gave Rutgers two straight wins over the Big Red. Jessi had scored two goals an added an assist when Cornell won their meeting as freshmen in Ithaca, N.Y.

"I thought it was going to go by home field advantage," Jessi said. "So now I don't have an excuse for this year. They've gotten a lot better. Their program has definitely improved.

"It's a little awkward playing against her. I think the most important thing is we're very competitive people, but we're not very competitive people with each other. I can celebrate that she's doing well and her team beat us. Off the field, there's an appreciation."

Ali was delivered one minute earlier than Jessi in early May 1990. They were together for more than 17 years until they elected to go to different colleges.

Jessi Steinberg was first team All-Ivy last year as Cornell's leading scorer. She's one minute younger than twin sister, Ali, who also has the upper hand in the juniors' college rivalry. Rutgers has won two straight over the Big Red.

© John Strohsacker/

"That was a rough decision once we realized we weren't going to go together," Jessi said. "It's not just the lacrosse aspect. As a person and a player, it's nice to see how you develop.

"We had never gone into a setting where had to make our own friends or be apart. We've always been a package deal."

Several colleges did look at the two as a package deal, and there was every reason to do so. They had been standouts together at Suffern High School in New York. Ali, a midfielder, finished with 176 goals and 87 assists, many of them to her sister. Jessi, who plays attack, had 226 goals and 68 assists in her scholastic career.

"When it came down to it, I think she wanted to go Ivy League," Ali said. "I didn't want to put that pressure on myself. I think we can both say it's one of the best decisions we've made. In high school, things got rough. Neither one of us was scared to speak our mind about how the other was playing. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it wasn't."

Both played doubles for the Suffern tennis team, but they refused to play together. Jessi played first doubles and Ali was second doubles, so there was no bickering on the court, and by going to different colleges there has only been praise and admiration for each other through three years of lacrosse.

"I just think we needed to find our own self in college," Ali said. "We were always known as the Steinberg twins. It's nice to have some individuality."

Both Ali and Jessi have done quite well for themselves, albeit in different roles. Ali led the Scarlet Knights in ground balls (40) last year and had 18 ground balls and caused nine turnovers out of her midfield spot.

Jessi was a first-team All-Ivy selection last year after leading the Big Red in goals (40), points (46) and draw controls (33).

"We're such different players," Ali said. "She's always scored more than I have. That's her strength. I'm more of a true midfielder. She can score on anyone. That's just not how my game is."

It's getting there. After tallying 15 goals and five assists in her first two seasons combined, Ali ranks third on Rutgers with 13 goals and three assists while still leading the team with 23 draw controls.

"This year, I knew I had to be a little more aggressive on the attack," Ali said. "We lost such good players. They were always able to carry us.

"I'm slowly trying to find where I belong in the attack. It hasn't always been my job to score. I'm getting up there."

Jessi remains the steady attacker for the Big Red. She has 16 goals and two assists through six games. She also leads the team with 15 draw controls.

Said Ali: "I think she has the same tendencies. Her coach has put her in spots where I'm not used to seeing her. I can still tell when she's about to drive to goal. In high school, it was a lot from up top. Now she's coming from behind. Her tendencies and strengths haven't changed a lot. She still scores a lot."

Aside from their head-to-head matchup once a year, the sisters rarely get the chance to see each other play. Ali made it to Jessi's win over Columbia; Jessi saw Ali in a scrimmage.

"She's definitely improved in all areas," Jessi said. "As you mature, granted you're going to get better, but the biggest thing I didn't realize is how much her team relies on her on the draw and in transition. She has great hand-eye coordination on the draw. I realized how much of an all-around player she is through watching her in college these three years."

Though they are apart, they still keep close tabs on each other. And while they will be apart through college, they still play together in the summer and foresee a future together following graduation.

"I'm sure we'll be living together," Jessi said. "We're both looking at being different forms of teachers."

But before they get there, the two will be looking to push their respective teams as far as possible this year, and then turn their focus to one more matchup between Cornell and Rutgers early next season.

Said Jessi: "I've got to even the score."

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