The bond between soccer players India Watne and Erin Craig is more than just teammates, or even friends; it’s a big sister, little sister relationship that began July 25, 2010.
Sophomores at the time, Craig and Lauren Costa went to the Missoula International Airport to pick up Watne for the summer training session before Montana Griz soccer preseason. Decked out in bright pink Juicy Couture sweatpants, Watne looked like the stereotypical Los Angeles native, and her new teammates made sure she knew that she was not in California anymore. To this day,Watne said she still receives grief for her Southern California style.
Putting fashion trends aside, Craig and Watne were able to bond on and off the field.
“Our personalities go hand in hand,” said Craig, a junior forward. “We’re both very energetic, and we feed off each other’s energy. Our teammates can laugh at us and have no idea what’s going on in ourconversation.”
Sophomore midfielder and forward Watne agreed, saying that Craig and her get along so well ultimately because of their sense humor. They’re honest, loud and constantly rip on each other, she said. At times during the game, moments can get heated and the competitive duo will both criticize each other, but they take it in stride and build off their counterpart’s suggestions.
Under new head coach Mark Plakours, the team, and these two players, have improved as a whole. Their season began with a win against Boise State, then continued with a second win against the University of Wyoming, and catapulted to their best season start (3-0) with a win against Boise State again.
During the last few weeks, the team has fallen (3-6-1) overall, but both girls have been racking up the stats.
Craig has scored nine goals this season, which ranks her 10th nationally; she’s earned three Big Sky Conference Player of the Week awards. Watne leads the conference with the most assists at seven. Both players were also listed on TopDrawerSoccer.com as the top two players in its top 20 rankings for the Big Sky, with Craig taking first and Watnesecond.
Of those nine goals Craig has scored Watne assisted on four of them, so needless to say magic happens when No. 2 and No. 7 find each other.
“We’re both in the same spots,” Watne said. “I know where to hit the ball and I know she’ll be there 100 percent of the time, she knows I’ll get it to her so she gets there.”
Racking up the assists doesn’t bother the California native, either. In fact, she loves them. Watne relishes in the fact that she can be a part of the process of getting the ball, putting it in the right place, and then being able to run up to a teammate to celebrate the fact that they did it right and they put it all together.
The only way Craig was able to describe their ability to work well together on the field was that they simply just vibe with each other.
“With forwards, it’s hard because a lot want those kinds of stats for themselves,” Craig said on playing with Watne. “And that’s part of being a forward, you have to be a little selfish, but most of the time it’s her unselfishness that helps me out and then helps out the team.”
Coming from a family with two older brothers and one older sister, Watne was
willing to accept the Montana native as her big sister. They’re both comfortable with each other and can handle the honest truth, even if it’s Craig telling Watnean outfit she has on doesn’t look good.
Both are passionate about the game they play and admire different qualities that they each bring to the team and their friendship. ‘Little sister’ has speed and a knowledge base that benefits the team, and ‘big sister’ has a work ethic that no one else has. Craig loves the game so much that she carries around a soccer ball with her on campus, just to have a ball at her feet, Watne said.
“She will do anything to get the ball and put it in the net, she will go through hell,” Watne said. “People don’t know but she will have kinks and pulls going into games. She wants to play and she has a good touch.”