Before it was time to leave for her new home nearly 5,000 miles away, 6-year-old Juliet Twomey went to the beach, scooped up some Hawaiian sand and placed it in a Tupperware.
She later transferred it to a jar, which now sits on her desk in her house in Potomac, Md. It serves as a reminder of “The Aloha Spirit.” Take a deep breath, she’ll tell herself. Everything’s okay.
But the Churchill field hockey team’s junior goalie was on her own Sept. 26 as the inches of grass separating her from the charging Whitman player shrank. With the Bulldogs’ defenders trailing behind, it was up to Twomey to maintain order for her team.
Twomey kicked away the shot on the left post, but the Vikings kept possession. She wasn’t fazed.
The next attempt pulled Twomey to the middle of the cage. She stopped it, then blocked the rebound attempt with her right shoulder.
Whitman corralled the ball once more, and the final shot forced Twomey to dive to her right. She made the save and fell on top of the ball to finally end the heart-pounding sequence. The Churchill fans exploded, but Twomey’s focus didn’t waver. She picked herself up, got into her goalie stance and waited for the next shot.
Growing up in the Aloha State, Twomey learned to doggedly tackle challenges head on. When she was 5, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At 7, she watched her father leave for a 17-month deployment in Afghanistan. During her childhood, she helped her brother, who was dealing with learning disabilities.
Those close to Twomey marvel at her ability to stay calm under pressure, a trait that’s resulted in dominance in her first season as the Bulldogs’ starter in the cage.
Churchill (15-0) faces Springbrook on Wednesday in the Bulldogs’ first state semifinal appearance since 2005 with an unblemished record. Twomey’s goalkeeping has been critical part of the team’s run as she’s allowed just four goals all season.
“On the surface, if you’ve met her, she’s so cool, calm, collected,” said Sheryl Lynch, a close family friend from Hawaii. “But underneath, she’s just a real powerhouse.”
It took some time for Twomey to adjust to life in Potomac. The fast-paced lifestyle of her new environment was different. The Twomeys ate dinner outside in Hawaii most nights, and sometimes even on the beach. Juliet climbed the plumeria tree in her front yard for fun.
But the family was there on business.
Twomey’s father, Andrew, worked as a brigade commander at Schofield Barracks. He’d be forced away from his family for long periods of time, leaving Twomey’s mother, Melanie, to manage the house. One aspect she couldn’t figure out what was how to help her son, Christopher.
He suffers from a learning disability, but it took Melanie some time to wrap her head around it. One afternoon she grew frustrated with her son and implored him to finish his homework at a faster rate. But Juliet could tell something was wrong.
“She’s pulling on my shorts and she says ‘Mommy, Mommy,’ ” Melanie said. “She goes ‘Mommy he can’t do what you’re asking him to do.’ I just looked at her and my eyes filled with tears. . . . She taught me about him.”
Twomey comforted her mother through tough times, too. Though Melanie often handed her daughter off to neighbors while she was receiving cancer treatment, Twomey made sure to cuddle up with her mother and watch movies when she could.
That ability to remain calm and help a family member in need translates to the turf.
Junior Martina Rabade pointed to Twomey’s composure and how it has helped fuel Churchill’s season. Some goalies yell at their defenders when they get frustrated. Twomey doesn’t get frustrated.
“Lots of times opponents will listen to how a team talks to each other,” Churchill Coach Cay Miller said. “If a team communicates with panic or fear, the other team can feed off of that. Juliet has a really good strength to speak with clarity and with confidence. And that’s really empowering for our team.”
The Bulldogs have needed every one of Twomey’s 47 saves this season. Nine of their 15 wins have come by fewer than three goals, and she didn’t allow a goal until a 2-1 win over Clarksburg on Oct. 13. The Bulldogs’ lone conceded goal earlier the year came on an own goal in a 2-1 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Sept. 15.
Rabade took responsibility for that one. A shot caromed off her stick and into the cage, leaving her frustrated with herself. But Twomey insisted it wasn’t Rabade’s fault.
“I felt inspired and knew she had faith in me,” Rabade said.
The little chat lifted Rabade as the game went into double overtime. Twomey, meanwhile, finished with six saves in the win. It’s that type of leadership that’s helped extend the Bulldogs’ season longer than they initially expected.
“Even if you go down, there’s someone that’s always going to pick you right up,” Rabade said. “Juliet is that person for me.”