Whether they face losses or are on winning streaks, a group of 16 Case Western Reserve University athletes have a relationship that goes past the team.
These eight pairs of siblings support each other on and off the field.
Alexa and Justin Williams enjoy each other’s company in the lobby of the Wyant Athletic and Wellness Center, seated with smiles on their faces. The pair enjoys contact sports; Justin plays defensive end for the Spartan football squad while Alexa suits up for the women’s soccer team.
“I’m always proud when she gets a little rough with the opponents,” said Justin. “She has a certain tenaciousness about how she plays.”
“I was always really proud when they beat the Gateway Gators (a high school football rival). His senior year, they won off a last second field goal and everyone was going nuts,” said Alexa.
That grit on the field comes from their strong relationship and mutual competitive nature. “We always make fun of each other,” said Alexa.
“People would think we hate each other,” said Justin in response, laughing.
“But it works,” Alexa reminded him.
Despite the friendly competition, the brother-sister duo has a long history of support. Alexa admitted that she used to be confused by football, but now she gets the gist. “You always watch the quarterback or running back,” said Alexa. “I was a little confused by what he did.”
The two now know the other’s sport of choice, and they still attempt to watch the other’s games, plus they enjoy the benefit of their parents coming up and bring snacks. However, if they ever needed anything, they won’t have to go far.
“We figured out that we are going to right down the hall from each other in the Village next year,” said Justin.
“It’s gonna be a walk down the hall and hey!” said Alexa, laughing.
The Petro siblings, Kayla and Tom have more of a quiet relationship. “We can sit in the same room for an hour and not talk much,” said Kayla.
Kayla plays Volleyball for the Spartans while Tom swims for CWRU. Despite their quiet natures, the siblings still go to each other’s games and cheer loudly for the other. “I would go to swim meets and cheer,” said Kayla. “But it’s also really long when he only swims for a few seconds at a time.”
The siblings are obviously close when together, but because of school and their respective sports, they can often miss out on each other’s achievements. Kayla laughed about how her mom will ask her about things Tom has done that she hasn’t heard about since she only sees him by chance, often at the gym. When asked when they were most proud of each other: “Well I was proud when you got accepted here,” said Kayla.
“Um…” said Tom, thinking, “what have you done?”
“Wow, I take mine back. I hate you,” said Kayla jokingly to her brother.
The Cain brothers have even more experience of playing alongside each other. Aaron and Kerrigan Cain both play baseball for the Spartans. This is the second year the duo has played together for CWRU, but it isn’t a new experience for the pair. They played on the same high school team, playing two years together there too, while Kerrigan was a junior and a senior, Aaron a freshman and sophomore. This feat has carried over to college.
When Aaron joined the team, Kerrigan got an unfavorable nickname. “Even though I knew the guys first, I became the Boring Cain,” said Kerrigan. “I’m not boring.”
“He is pretty boring,” said Aaron with a smile.
Despite his “boring” nature, the older Kerrigan has been a role model for Aaron in adjusting to the demands of playing in college. “He has a great work ethic,” said Aaron.
Aaron has been also been a valuable addition to the Spartans and has earned his nickname of “Mr. Clutch.” His key hits in close games, particularly in last year’s regional playoff game. With the game tied in the final inning, Aaron connected on the pitch, driving in the winning run.
The pair has the unique ability to score off the other one’s heroics. The two have been playing sports since before starting school, starting with T-Ball and, now 18 years later, playing college ball. The pair learned from each other, their dad pitching to one while the other fielded. Growing up, Aaron would get the chance to “play up” with Kerrigan’s team so that nowadays the experience is closer to the norm. “I’m pretty sure we cheated at one point, and I played down a level too,” said Kerrigan, laughing.
The Nick and Dan Bavaro duo grew up playing soccer. It was the dominant sport in their house. However, when the football coach asked Nick to come play football, he made the switch. “I was approached by a coach of the eighth grade team asking me to play,” said Nick. “I practiced all summer and came out for the team that next year. I haven’t looked back since.”
Dan stuck with soccer, and the two have now found their way to the collegiate level. Now on campus, the two attempt to stay connected, despite the difference in sports. “I would say that we are pretty close,” said Nick. “We are brothers, so I would say trash talk is another big part of our conversations—he usually can’t handle this,” said Dan jokingly.
“Last year we both lived on north side and were lifting partners in the offseason, but this year living on south side and dealing with injuries have prevented us from hanging out as much,” said Nick. “Despite that, we both stay pretty involved in each other’s lives.”
Finally the Tommas brothers, Nick and Nate, who are twins finishing up their first year here at CWRU, excel on the wrestling mat for the Spartans. The duo came to CWRU for both the high-level of academics and also for wrestling. “It is the only school we applied to that has a wrestling program,” said Nick.
The pair has only a few years of wrestling experience as they both started wrestling in eighth grade when some of their friends wanted them to try it out.
Now, five years later, the two of them have a great system for improvement. “It’s good to always have a drill partner that is around the same weight and pushes you. We also support each other a lot in our matches,” said Nick.
The pair has a very supportive relationship. Through wrestling and school, they are together pretty much all the time, and they consider each other best friends. When they go home, the wrestling continues. “We talk about wrestling a lot, especially with our dad, who was our high school wrestling coach,” said Nick.
While each family is different, these siblings’ dedication to their sports and to helping each other succeed is a unique relationship beyond that of a teammate. In addition to the Tommas, Bavaros, Cains, Petros and Williams, three other sibling pairs play on campus. Twins Eric and David Black take their skills to the hardwood for the Spartan basketball team. The Carson twins, Sean and Alex, rip it up on the football field, while the twin duo Julian and Nathan Robinson excel on the soccer pitch. Sports bring people together, and nowhere is that more evident than in the sibling pairs on campus.