The EMU Women’s Basketball team has a dynamic not seen on many University athletic teams: not one, but two sets of sisters. Jess Rheinheimer and Alicia Ygarza came to Harrisonburg in the fall to join their respective sisters on the women’s basket- ball team. Stephanie Rheinheimer and Bianca Ygarza, both juniors, have had two years to cement them- selves into the regular rotation. Now, with their sibling rivals joining them on the court, this year brings a different, yet familiar feel for the juniors.
Having a sister that played the same sport and was close in age made growing up quite competitive for the Rheinheimers.
“I would never let her beat me,” boasts Stephanie about the rivalry with Jess. As a teammate, the dynamic shifts from competition to connectivity.
Having played together in both middle and high school, Stephanie and Jess have developed that chemistry. “We read each other better,” explains Stephanie. “Having [Jess] on the team now is fun, but when we are playing I don’t necessarily see her as my sister, but a teammate.”
When it was time for Jess to pick a university, Stephanie wanted her to come to EMU over some of the other schools she was considering. “I thought it would be a better suit
for her athletically, and I also wanted her on my team because I know she is a good player,” Stephanie recalls.
Bianca Ygarza has enjoyed riding the ups and downs of the season with her younger sister there for her. “[Alicia] is my best friend,” tells Bianca while waiting for her sister to come out of the locker room after a win against Shenandoah on Tuesday. “We have a great relationship. We confide in each other, sharing any of our struggles.” While Bianca wanted Alicia to come to EMU to play with her, playing time was going to be hard fought for the freshman Ygarza with so many returning players. “I offer encouragement to Alicia, reassuring her that her time will come,” shares Bianca.
“We are each others support system,” Alicia confirms after emerging from the lockers. “When I need encouragement, I know I can turn to [Bianca].”
At 14-5, The Lady Royals are in position to finish with another strong season after ending last year at 22-4.
The sibling duos have another year together even after this one is finished.They all agree that they have seen improvement within the entire team, as well as within themselves. Stephanie is excited about the future of the team, as well as further opportunity to play with her younger sister. “It’s been fun so far, and I’m sure the next year and half won’t be any different.”
The Lady Royals next play at Emory & Henry on February 2nd, trying to maintain their first place tie with Guilford in the ODAC.