For their first two years playing for the Lynden Christian boys' soccer team, twins Toby and Trevor Dalla Santa seemed almost inseparable.
They played in the middle of the Lyncs' attack, and where one went, the other seemed to follow. When one scored, more often than not, the other seemed to get the assist.
"They're kind of like any twins," Lynden Christian coach Brent De Ruyter said in a phone interview. "They finish each other's sentences; they're always hanging out together. I guess that's going to change for them next year, though, because they're going to different colleges. One will be in Chicago, and the other will be in Grand Rapids (Mich.). So we'll see how they do apart."
Over the past two years, the Lyncs actually have provided the Dalla Santa boys a chance to work through any separation anxiety that might pop up.
Last year, when Chad Heerspink went down with a knee injury in football, Toby moved forward to spear the LC offensive attack, and this year Trevor has been playing defense for the Lyncs.
"It's been weird," Toby said in a phone interview. "We played together most of our life. Our sophomore year, we were the starting center mids. But this year he's moved back to defense, and we're not getting as much time together. He still really enjoys pushing up from right back, though. So even though he's not always involved, we get to work together sometimes."
While Trevor has gotten only limited offensive opportunities, Toby has turned into an offensive force for the Lyncs in his second season up top.
Toby leads the team with 10 goals and seven assists this season and is a big part of the reason the team qualified for the Class 1A State Tournament for the third time in five years. The Lyncs will host Seton Catholic in the first round at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at Civic Stadium.
"He's your dream kid," De Ruyter said. "We have a lot of those kids this year. Our coaching staff feels really blessed. Toby has a consistent work ethic. He has ability to create not only for himself, but also for his teammates. He has a willingness to help out on and off the field - from equipment to anything you can name. He's a great young man, really. He's a 4.0-plus student. He's going into engineering, so he's more than just soccer. We're really blessed to have a kid like him on the team."
And LC was never more blessed to have him than last year, after Heerspink tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the fall of 2011.
Though De Ruyter said Heerspink had done a good job of helping prepare Toby for an eventual move up top the previous two years, Toby called last year "an interesting experience."
"It was a difficult learning process," Toby said. "I had to learn the ropes of the position and how to position myself properly."
He also had to learn how to play with his back to the net, rather than being a guy that was coming up the field and could watch the play develop from behind.
"He seemed a little more rigid last year," De Ruyter said. "He was more focused on seeing what he was doing. This year seems to be more natural - he just feels it. The game has really slowed down for him, and he's settled in. He doesn't seem to be playing at a frantic pace anymore - he's just steady."
De Ruyter said Toby also has learned how to use his big, 6-foot-4 frame to his advantage.
Not only is he strong enough to keep defenders off his back, he's one of the tallest players in the box, allowing him a chance to get a head on just about anything in the air in his vicinity.
"I can create havoc in the air," Dalla Santa said. "That's a big part of my game this year."
But Toby's size is far from his only physical asset.
Though it's often overlooked and underestimated, De Ruyter said the long-legged senior has very good speed - calling him one of the three fastest players on Lyncs' roster.
"I'm faster than people think," Toby said. "The first part of the game, I try not to go ridiculously hard. Then when I need it later in the game, my speed is there."
That's not all that's been there for Toby, though.
The captain also credited the growth and improvement of the players around him this year for helping in his own development.
"This team has a lot of pieces around me," Dalla Santa said. "They do a good job of setting me up, and I try to do the same for them. I'm not only getting used to my role, but everybody around me is stepping up. ... Luke Reardon is a great player, and he's really coming on strong. We have a dominating midfield, and on the wing Colin (Robinson) and Ben (Knibbe) have really improved. Cody Fransen has been really strong, and so has Trevor Kamena. We all work together to make each of us better this year."
But the one player Toby hasn't had much of a chance to work much with offensively this year is his twin brother.
Less than six months from now, they won't even be living in the same zip code.
Toby said he is playing to attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, while Trevor will attend Trinity Christian College in the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights, Ill.
Neither is planning to play soccer in college, though Toby said he might consider playing tennis at Calvin.
"Trevor and I get along great," Toby said. "It's been a ton of fun playing with him, and we've been blessed to be able to play and spend so much time together. ... It's definitely going to be an adjustment not being with him all the time. We're so used to being together. I think it will probably be good to spend some time apart, but it will be hard. I'm sure we'll talk a lot on the phone, and we'll only be about three hours apart, so I'm sure we'll still see each other a lot."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Seton Hall at Lynden Christian
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 14
Site: Civic Stadium
Bellingham at North Kitsap
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 15
Site: North Kitsap High School, Poulsbo
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.