BENNINGTON -- In between a set of questions, Mount Anthony Union High School's Rachel Holland takes her field hockey stick and winds up.
In one fluid motion, she brings the stick across the leg pads of her sister, Leah.
The sound rings out across the field hockey pitch at Mount Anthony.
Then again. Whack.
"You have no idea how much pleasure this brings me," Rachel says, again winding up and letting loose. "Sometimes, I'll see [Leah] in goal and I'll see her take her stick and go like that [Rachel motions again], so I have developed this habit to hit my own shin guards. No one notices it, but she'll be hitting her pads and I'll hit mine, too."
It is one of the many unique aspects in the lives of the twin sisters. Both senior co-captains for the Patriots, Leah is the shot stopper in goal; Rachel, the shot creator in the midfield. Together, they are half of the seniors on this year's Patriots team, along with Gabby Loomis and Makayla Farrara. Combined, they create an interesting dynamic on an intriguing squad.
Rachel and Leah are not the type of twins who argue all the time. While each admitted that sometimes things can get heated, the two share a bond on the field hockey field and it extends over into life, as well.
"It's really great [playing with Leah]," Rachel said. "It's like, ‘that's my sister back there, she just had a great game!' It makes you proud to play on the same team."
Leah nods her head in approval before adding: "It is really cool. Not many people play the same sport as their sister, and not many people have a twin. It is unique to play with Rachel."
The duo started playing field hockey at just 8 years old. Laura Paro, now their coach at Mount Anthony, suggested that they go to camps to learn the sport. The camps would pave the way to playing on teams, which the girls started doing when they hit middle school.
The duo admitted that other sports caught their attention growing up, but it was always field hockey that held their hearts.
"[Camps] didn't have goalie things, so I didn't' start [playing goalie] until seventh grade," Leah said. "But I like field hockey, and it is mainly the sport I like to play."
Rachel adds: "I played soccer up until sixth grade, but there was something about field hockey that made me want to stick with it."
The reason is quite simple: they are both quite good at field hockey.
Leah is in her second season as a starter in goal. So far this year, Leah and the defense have pitched six shutouts, conceding only six goals. At the other end of the field, Rachel has banged in 5 goals while adding 7 assists.
However, if not for an intervention from their mother Laura, Leah might have stopped playing.
"In seventh grade, I knew I wanted to play," Rachel said. "But after the first day, Leah said ‘I'm not sure.' So our mom said ‘well, you can either play field hockey or you can stay home and do housework,' so Leah said ‘Yeah, I will play field hockey.'"
And good thing for Patriots fans, as Leah was the only one who wanted to play goalie during middle school.
"No one else played goalie, so Leah stepped up and played it," Rachel recalls. "She has worked so hard at it and has become the best she can be."
For Rachel, there has not been one position for her to play throughout the years. She has played just about all of them.
She started as a forward, playing with Loomis and Farrara up top to help score goals. From there, she moved to the opposite side of the field and played on defense during parts of high school. Then, this year, she moved to central midfield. And everyone involved thinks it is the right place for her.
Paro's reasoning for the switch was simple.
"Lily Taub graduated, and I needed someone with vision there," Paro said. "Because of her vision on the field and her stick skills, she is a very good center mid."
"I'd like to keep her in central midfield," Leah said. "Yeah, it was good in middle school having her on the forward line since it helped us score. But since her stick skills have improved she pushes herself to get back or push the ball up the field. I think midfield is where she needs to be."
And for Rachel, playing in the midfield gives her the best of both worlds.
"I think it is my favorite position because I can still score, but I can get back and help Leah play in defense," Rachel said.
For as confident as Rachel is in Leah's ability in the cage, she still cannot help feeling nervous when the opposing team builds an attack.
"I get so scared. As soon as I see the ball going down [towards Leah] I'm hoping she is ready for it, and I am moving back as quickly as possible," Rachel said.
"Especially on defensive corners, I'm like ‘please, save the ball' and she does, and I am so thrilled. But I don't have enough time to congratulate her because I'm running back up the field."
Leah gets the bird's eye view of Rachel in action. When Rachel scores or makes a nice play, Leah celebrates by herself at the back.
"I freak out," Leah said. "I get so happy. She has scored a lot this year. Before, she has only scored a few goals. But she has been doing a fantastic job and I just freak out."
As the regular season starts to wind down for the team and the playoffs approach, Leah is hoping that she will have a few more chances to "freak out." Sitting at 8-2 this season, the Patriots are in a prime position to grab a high seed in the Division I tournament, and make a push towards the semifinals again.
Last year, the team fell to Champlain Valley 2-1 in overtime of the semifinals. Leah and Rachel know that it will take work to get back in that position again, but the pair is confident in a young team.
"I was surprised we are doing this well because we have so many underclassmen stepping up and doing their jobs," Rachel said.
Rachel and Leah also have another pair of captains to help shoulder the load. While Leah anchors the back and Rachel drives play in the midfield, it is Loomis and Farrara that hit the goals in off of Rachel's passes.
"It is great to have had Makayla and Gabby stick with it like we did and be the only four seniors that stuck with it from the start," Leah said. "It means a lot that we care about the sport."
The care that Leah and Rachel have for the sport means that, in all likelihood, the two will play field hockey at a college next year.
Leah and Rachel want to play together, wherever that might be. No choices have been made on a school yet, let alone if the girls will choose the same school, but neither girl seems interested in a field hockey life without the other.
Could they play at different schools? Maybe. But it would take some adjusting.
"Having Rachel there, growing up as a sister, you are with them all the time," Leah said. "Just going to a different school and not having her there would feel very strange. And going to a field hockey practice and not seeing her there, it would just, I don't know, confuse me."
Rachel takes her stick and winds up once more, an uneasy smile stretching across her face.
Geoff Smith is the Assistant Sports Editor at the Bennington Banner. He can be reached at (802)-447-7567 ext. 112, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @GSmith_Banner