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WF sister act at next level: Lopez sisters play together at Northern State

Midfielder Mara Lopez (right) finished her final season as a Packer in June. She has joined her older sister, Tia, at Northern State University. Pioneer File Photo1 / 2
West Fargo alum Tia Lopez has been a midfielder for the Northern State Wolves since the 2009 season. This season, she’ll have a familiar teammate.2 / 2

The West Fargo High School soccer program has a reputation for grooming solid athletes, but sometimes, it simply runs in the family.

Packers alum Tia Lopez has been playing midfield for Northern State University’s soccer team — in Aberdeen, S.D. — since the 2009 season. This year, she will be joined by her little sister, fellow midfielder and 2012 West Fargo graduate Mara Lopez.

“Soccer has been everything for us,” Tia said. “Playing with her at the next level is going to be awesome.”

Tia and Mara, the daughters of Tammy and the late Bill Lopez, grew up playing soccer together in their backyard, and both consider the sport a key facet of the bond they share on and off the field.

“We never really fight,” Tia said. “We have always been super close, and sharing soccer as something we care about is really special. She has always come to me with anything — life, school, soccer — and I feel special to be there for that stuff.”

On the field, the similarities in play style between the two are very apparent to Packers head coach James Moe, yet they are unique enough to provide something special to the team.

“Tia was a big part of our championship team, and has always been very aggressive and strong on ball with great footwork,” Moe said. “Her greatest strength has alway been her ability to retain the ball. We would play her at forward occasionally when we really needed to keep possession.

“On the other hand, Mara’s best trait is her speed. She is also very aggressive with the ball, but she is so fast. Tia would look to win the ball and pass it off, but Mara looks to work around people.”

Tia chose to join the Wolves in 2009, preferring the athletes and atmosphere on campus over other schools she visited. Mara chose the same college for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the chance to play with her big sister again.

“That was definitely part of it.” Mara said. “She is a great player. She has helped me become a better, faster player. She’ll be a big help for me this season, but I also loved the school when I went to visit, and I got to meet the rest of the team and loved them too.”

Moe — who has played a pivotal role in shaping both of these athletes — has high expectations for both girls in the upcoming season.

“Tia is an established, major player on that team, and I don’t expect that to change in her senior season,” Moe said. “Mara will have to pay her dues, but I could see her making an impact right away. They will be used in a similar manner, but Mara could maybe be a secret weapon, and maybe see opportunities up front.”

While they play the same position, the two hope to see some time on the field together this season.

“I know the type of player she is, and she knows the type of player I am,” Tia said. “I think it would be really easy for us to find each other on the field.”

Regardless of everything else, the two are simply looking forward to spending the upcoming year with each other.

“She is my best friend,” Mara said. “We have such a connection. I’m really excited to travel and meet new people with her.”

The Wolves begin their season on Friday, Sept. 6, against Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.