Even at a school where students are used to family members sharing PO boxes, it is unusual to have five sets of siblings all playing the same sport at once. Brothers Preston '08 and Ryan St. John '09 are a formidable football duo, and twins Allison and Christina Mills '10 see action on the women's soccer team. But the five pairs of brothers on the men's side are a phenomenon virtually unmatched in St. Olaf athletics history.
The brothers may be able to field a complete lineup, covering every position except goalkeeper, but they don't view themselves as extraordinary.
"The team was already like this when I got here," Mike Peabody, eldest of the ten, said. He said the tight-knit team he saw at Olaf was a big factor in his decision to attend the school, and that the soccer guys have "always treated each other like brothers."
Most of the players agree that they have to stop and think about who the brothers are. "When people started to realize there were so many brothers, it was like, 'Oh really, we do? I guess so!'" Greg Peabody said.
"I only noticed the Zietlows at first," Phil Kennedy said. "They stand up for each other. It's cute." Teammate Scott Crider '10 agreed. "The first time I saw them, I thought they were the same person."
The Zietlows don't look identical up close, but on the field, their similar height and stature can fool even their teammates' eyes. Since Mark and John usually play on the field at the same time, Bobby Anderson said it is easier to just call "Zietlow" instead of figuring out which one he's trying to talk to. "The right one usually answers," Anderson said with a grin.
And the brothers have a lot of practice, having played two years together on their high school team at Rochester Mayo and on many club teams together as kids. Mark came to St. Olaf first, impressed with the academic and athletic opportunities he saw here. John visited often to watch his brother play and is now one of the only first-years on the varsity squad. "I wanted to play with Mark again," John said. The Zietlows also have two younger brothers who play soccer, but their ages do not overlap as with Mark and John's.
When asked if they had ever considered attending other schools where they would have to play against each other, the brothers laughed. "It might be kind of fun," they admitted, revealing a rarely-seen competitive streak. "But I think it would still be a little hard not to watch out for your brother if you played on opposite teams," Mark said.
Their teammates may joke about the Zietlows' protectiveness, telling stories about how one brother will get taken down and the other starts the fight. "I've had to keep them both out of fights," Bobby joked. "But of course, Mark would do that for anybody on the team."
When asked if he gets involved in confrontation with his brother, Bobby said that he "pretty much lets David handle his own fights." The brothers played two years of high school soccer side by side in Oak Grove, Minn., and love playing together at St. Olaf. "It definitely made it an easier transition to [have Bobby here]," David said. Unlike the Zietlows, the Andersons' family resemblance is less pronounced, although they share the same mischievous smile. And while Bobby played in the midfield in high school and David played stopper, both play the center-back position for the Oles. "The Andersons are like buddies," observed Barrett and Phil, joking that they are almost "too normal."
Most of the other brothers say this is pretty typical of their team. "We get along, but we each have our own stuff," Mike said. "I didn't know my brother was at the Homecoming dance in the Pause until he jumped on me," Greg added.
Barrett and Phil, on the other hand, said their worlds have collided a bit more since coming to Olaf. Barrett played hockey for a year after high school, then came to play hockey and soccer. Although he and Phil played on the same high school team in Eagan for a year, playing together here is a lot different. "I didn't get much playing time when Barrett was a senior," Phil said.
Now, the brothers are only a year apart in school, and both regularly start on the team. "It's a little weird now there was a bigger difference between 16 and 18-year-olds when we were in high school," Barrett explained. "Now, his friends are my friends, too."
And last year, when Phil arrived, so did their dad Michael, as a "wannabe" assistant coach. "That was just a little too much," Barrett said, after his year away from home playing hockey and another year at Olaf without Phil. "Going from that level of distance to having Phil and Dad around that was weird."
When Phil, David, and Greg joined the team last year, it showed immediately on the roster. Even three sets of brothers, at that time, made a difference in the team dynamic, setting the stage for Ben and John this year. Most of the younger brothers came to St. Olaf because, like John, they had visited often to watch their older brothers play.
"Coach [Kurt Anderson] is pretty good about, if you have a brother, going and checking him out," Mike said. Both of the Zietlows were actively recruited for the soccer team, as was Phil.
"I came here because I knew that it was a place I could play soccer and run," David explained, who also runs track with his brother in the spring.
Nathan and Ben both chose to play soccer in college over baseball and football, and both applied only at St. Olaf. "I like having Nate here," Ben said, although the brothers don't get to play together because of Ben's injury. The brothers played soccer together all over the world as kids, with their dad's job moving them from Japan to Saudi Arabia to Morocco all before Nathan was 14. Ben even played on a Moroccan team that competed in the Schwan's USA Cup here in Minnesota, with his dad as his coach.
Most recently from Decorah, Iowa, where they played on the same team for one season in high school, Nathan and Ben may be the most different brothers on the team. "They're not even the Langholzes they're just Nate and Ben," Barrett joked. Ben is an easygoing conversationalist, one of the few who can always provoke a smile from Nathan's stoic, calm demeanor. Their parents drive up for most of their games, since there are no younger siblings left at home.
And the Langholz brood is not alone. "The parents of the brothers are probably there more than others," Bobby said. At a recent JV game, one of the parents asked why the players were yelling "Boody" -- originally Mike's nickname, it has now passed down to Greg as well. Confusion in the stands is a new and entertaining consequence of having all of the brothers around, but so far hasn't caused any game-stopping problems.
The brotherly love extends into St. Olaf student life in at least one other noticeable way. Mike Peabody, who finished a double major in four years but is back this fall to take his final physical education credit (although he walked with his class in May), managed the Pause last year. Greg is a Kitchen Manager this year, and together the brothers have employed a large number of soccer players in the Pause kitchen.
And although they don't like to admit it, the brothers have had an incredible influence on the team's performance. When the team played Luther into overtime a few weeks ago, Mark set up a game-winning goal for John. "I know what Phil is thinking more than other people," Barrett explained. "I can see what he is trying to do sometimes when other players can't, because I've played with him for so long."
According to Mike Peabody, "having all these brothers just enhances what is already there."