They aren’t the first siblings to go head-to-head in Juneau’s budding prep sports rivalry.
And the Tarver sisters certainly won’t be the last.
But they do represent an element of the old guard against the new.
Juneau-Douglas senior Sarah Tarver might be the best female athlete at a traditional state power, where the Crimson Bears girls’ basketball team is the defending 4A state champion. JDHS has raised four state title banners in the program’s history.
Thunder Mountain sophomore Katie Tarver is planting her flag as one of the best female athletes at a brand-new high school, where the Falcons are working hard to make a name for their athletics program.
Juneau-Douglas has played in four of the last seven state championship basketball games, while Thunder Mountain has won seven total games in the program’s near-two-year history.
The Tarvers both play volleyball, basketball and soccer, and the games between the two schools haven’t been competitive yet, to say the least, but Katie said this year has been a lot more fun than last.
“Last year in volleyball, I wasn’t a huge fan of that,” she quipped. I don’t really like playing against her in basketball, either, but for soccer, I do like that because I feel like I have the one-up in that sport. But it’s been better this year (in basketball) because the team is a lot more developed.”
Sarah, who stands about a half a foot taller than her little sister, is more imposing on the basketball court.
“But I’m a better shooter because if I were to drive in, she’d stuff me every time,” Katie laughed. “I had to learn how to shoot. She drives (to the basket) because she knows she can’t shoot, and I shoot because I know she would get to me if I (drove).”
Sarah often finds herself harassing her sister as she tries to bring the ball up against Juneau-Douglas’ signature, suffocating full-court pressure defense, but the two don’t take it personally.
“I guess it’s not much different than it is at home,” Sarah joked. “But we’ve been competing throughout our lives so it’s not weird or anything. We all know it’s different when we’re on the field or on the court. It’s a whole different mental state when you’re playing.”
The two also love fishing and hunting, and they both know a thing or two about cleaning a fish or handling a firearm.
“That’s the lifestyle we had growing up. My mom and my dad have no problem going out hunting, and my uncles are big hunters,” Sarah said. “We were raised that way and we have a blast. We have no problem getting in there and doing what we have to do. Last fall we went moose hunting, and I did some duck hunting in middle school. I’m a decent (shot). I’m not the best but I have fun doing it.”
Katie said fishing is another avenue for the girls to be competitive.
“We have competitions like, who has the best fillet or who (cleans a fish) the fastest, who caught the biggest fish for the summer or for that day,” she said. “It just gives us more to do together because we really like being together.”
Katie is the extrovert of the pair, though Sarah is working at being more outgoing.
“Katie’s definitely a go-getter and has no problem sharing her feelings and having fun with people,” Sarah said. “She has no problem getting up in front of the class and laughing and having a ball. But my teammates have helped me (come out of my shell) this year. They’ve really helped me open up and I like it better this way.”
“I’m definitely a lot more outgoing,” Katie agreed. “But when it’s just us two, there is no difference in our personalities. She’s one of the goofiest people I know, and she’s my best friend.”
But what people want to know most often is why Katie chose to go to Thunder Mountain instead of following in her sister’s footsteps.
“That’s a frequently asked question,” Katie said. “Both of my sisters went to JDHS and I knew the coaches and the players there, but this was a new opportunity for me to be with the athletes in my age group. There are a lot of young coaches who are just starting out here. I thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’ It’s really cool to be a part of that, and that’s why I stayed.
“I’m doing my own thing and I definitely don’t regret it at all. It was worth it.”
“I didn’t like it,” Sarah bluntly admitted. “I wanted to go to school with my sister but that’s not how it worked out, and it’s fine this way, too. She loves TMHS and I think it’s a good fit for her. She loves it here and she obviously wants to stay.”
And the two will take the basketball court as opponents for what will likely be the final time Saturday as JDHS celebrates senior night, following Thunder Mountain’s on Friday.
“That really means a lot. The first part of senior night, it really doesn’t matter that we’re on different teams. It’s going to be tough because it will be really sad for me,” Katie said. “But I think it’s really cool that I get to be on the court for that and watch all of those girls have their last game; that whole group of senior girls.”
Sarah said it hasn’t really hit her yet that it will be her last regular season home game — the conference tournament is at JDHS next week — but, teammates or not, she’s excited to have her sister by her side for her special senior moment.
Some fans might choose to see the Falcons and Crimson Bears as the Hatfields and McCoys but in many ways, this rivalry will always remain in the family.