In the fall of 2018, twin sisters Olivia McKnight and Victoria McKnight celebrated Senior Day at nearby Vestal High School and wrapped up their storied high school soccer careers. The standout midfielders took their talents to BU, looking to replicate their success at the collegiate level.
However, early in the team’s first scrimmage last fall, Victoria suffered a season-ending injury, forcing her to redshirt her freshman year while Olivia had a breakout season. Now, with the women’s soccer team’s season postponed to the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pair will have gone two full years without taking the field together in a regular season game.
“It has been very hard — the competitive side of me is definitely ready to come out,” Victoria said. “I’m just so anxious to play again in a real game.”
The twins have played on the same teams throughout their entire lives, and neither had suffered a serious injury before.
“We play off each other, knowing where the other one’s going to go,” Olivia said. “That was definitely a challenge, adjusting my game. On top of that, [it] being my freshman year and traveling without her was sad because you knew she wanted to be there with [me].”
With the season postponed, Victoria will have to wait until the spring to make her collegiate debut and Olivia will have to wait to build off of her promising freshman year, as the women’s soccer team is in the midst of navigating one of the most unprecedented offseasons in the history of college sports.
When the America East (AE) suspended spring sports last March, it also canceled all remaining in-person practices for the other teams, including all of women’s soccer’s planned scrimmages. For the remainder of the semester, the players were forced to train remotely.
“Our coaches always gave us a packet for the week, and it sort of progressed toward the summer into where we’d be getting into heavier stuff preparing for our season because, at that point, we were preparing for a fall season,” Olivia said. “They always gave us packets and we had Zoom calls that explained what we could do because a lot of people didn’t have at-home equipment.”
With the entire team separated, the pair was fortunate to have each other to practice with.
“It was definitely important — it’s just so nice to have her to do everything with,” Victoria said. “Other teammates don’t have that luxury of having somebody who plays on the same team as them, same age, to do that.”
They were also joined at home by their older brother, redshirt sophomore midfielder Parker McKnight of the men’s soccer team, who they trained with throughout the spring and summer.
Despite the uncertainty regarding the season, the team’s offseason plan remained centered around playing a traditional fall schedule until the decision was officially made.
“Up until when there was an announcement that came out from the [AE] and Binghamton that the [AE] was canceling all fall sports, we were training for a fall season and for a preseason,” Olivia said. “Our coaches and our team wanted to have the mindset that we were going to have a season, and even if we didn’t, this work was gonna pay off at some point.”
A few weeks ago, the team was finally able to resume in-person practices, with the squad divided into four pods based on their academic years. Beginning last week, they were able to combine into two pods and hold practice with half of the team present.
“Hopefully, in the next week or two, we can do a whole team practice, obviously still wearing a mask but starting to get into the whole team,” Olivia said.
In addition, strength and conditioning activities usually held in the weight room are being held on the Events Center floor, with social distancing measures in place.
Throughout high school, Olivia and Victoria played comparable roles on the team and produced similar statistics. At BU, Olivia was named to the all-rookie team as a freshman and was seen as a strong contender for Rookie of the Year.
“I had a decent freshman year,” Olivia said. “It was good, but I’m definitely looking to improve my game now that I know what it’s like.”
Victoria is expected to have a similar impact as her sister when she finally makes her Binghamton debut.
“I’m looking forward to just being on the field [and] playing with my teammates,” Victoria said. “Obviously, I’m looking for Rookie of the Year, things like that, but I definitely just want to be back out there playing every minute of every game.”
Aside from the McKnights, this year’s team returns all but one starter from last season, including a strong senior class combined with talented young players.
“Everybody’s ready to play and everybody has had that time off where they miss it so much, so they’re all coming in so excited to get better and so excited to be together as a team,” Victoria said. “I know this team is going to be special.”