When field hockey coach Stephanie Chesley gave her toddler nieces Emily and Elise Tilton a miniature field hockey stick, she created a lot of problems for John Bapst High School field hockey opponents and opposing coaches several years later.
Following in older sister Meagan’s footsteps, the Tiltons have been the Crusaders catalysts and leaders.
Emily Tilton is having a memorable senior year.
Finally healthy after knee issues and a broken thumb slowed her down earlier in her career, Emily Tilton, an 18-year-old forward, has scored 33 goals and dished out 10 assists.
Sister Elise, a junior midfielder who is 18 months younger, has racked up 19 goals and a team-high 19 assists and has also been an important cog in the Bapst defense.
Bangor-based John Bapst has scored 64 goals and given up just 14.
The Crusaders, the second seed in Eastern Maine Class B with a 12-2 record, will host No. 7 Gardiner, 7-4-3, in a Tuesday quarterfinal at the University of Maine in Orono at 7:30 p.m.
“Emily is having an unbelievable year,” said Crusaders coach Gina Schuck. “Things are finally clicking for her. She has great stick skills. I think she can be an immediate impact player in college.”
Elise, according to Schuck, is “so quick and clever. She’s a very smart player. She’s smart off the ball. She reads things well and sees things develop. She can steal the ball off anybody and very few players can beat her one-on-one.
“Each of them has the potential to score three goals in any game,” added Schuck, who also coached Meagan Tilton.
“They are so skilled and so fundamentally sound in every way,” said Central of Corinth coach Diane Rollins. “They’re phenomenal players.
“Emily is physical and very aggressive. She can make things happen,” Rollins added. “Elise is more of a finesse player. She can make a move around you very quickly.”
Rollins watched them play growing up up in Corinth but never had a chance to coach them in high school since they moved to Holden and chose to attend John Bapst.
“I remember watching them in my junior high program and saying ‘Wow.’ They were good back then. I would have loved to have had them (at Central). But no such luck,” said Rollins.
“I credit Diane for getting them started and she has been very supportive of them,” said Schuck.
Elise credits a lot of her success and passion for the game to older sister Emily.
“Emily would want to go out and play (field hockey) and she would need someone to play with so she’d bring me along,” said Elise.
“We’ve played together since we were five,” said Emily. “I wanted to follow in my sister Meagan’s footsteps. She was an amazing player. And she would make us come out and play with her. She made us who we are.”
They readily admit their playing styles are different.
“I’m more of a get-it-and-go player. I’m scrappy. I’m not a finesse player like Elise is,” said Emily. “Elise is always thinking three steps ahead of everyone. She’s a distributor. She’s so dynamic. She’s a phenomenal all-around player. She can play defense or offense. She’s definitely our workhorse.”
Elise is used in all situations, including defensive penalty corners.
“I like playing defense,” said Elise. “(Offensively) I’m more of a passer although my coaches keep telling me to shoot more. Emily is more aggressive (when it comes to shooting and attacking the cage). ”
Schuck explained, “Emily thinks shoot first and if there isn’t a shot, she’ll pass it. Elise thinks pass first and if there isn’t a pass, she’ll shoot it.”
The close-knit sisters have a special chemistry on the field.
“We work really well together,” said Emily. “We can read each other’s minds.”
Elise added, “We’ve played so much together, we know where each other is going.”
Emily Tilton had a more difficult road to stardom.
She said she has always had “weak knees” and when she took a shot on the kneecap her freshman year, she faced an uncertain future.
“My knees were misdiagnosed. I was told I couldn’t play sports again,” said Emily.
But she went to physical therapy to strengthen her knees and received good news when she received a second opinion: she was told her knee problems were minor and she could play sports.
She broke her thumb last year and missed several games early in the season but returned to help lead the Crusaders to the Eastern B semifinals where they lost to eventual state champ Nokomis of Newport.
“Breaking my thumb enabled me to rest my knees and get better,” said Emily. “My knees still bother me, mostly my left knee (which got hit by the ball). But they don’t hurt as bad and I’ve had a lot of time to rest them.”
Elise said she feels “bad” that her older sister is playing in pain.
“But she’s out there and she loves the game,” said Elise who is glad her sister is a forward and doesn’t have to run as much as a midfielder.
The sisters were All-State selections a year ago and are the co-captains.
“Elise leads by example and I lead with my voice,” said Emily, who is looking to play college field hockey out of state next year.
Emily Tilton also plays basketball while Elise plays field hockey year-round. She plays club field hockey after the high school season ends.
They are happy with their seasons to date and would love to play for a state championship.
“I’m glad to be able to go out and make up for lost time (last year),” said Emily who has focused on her stickhandling and finishing this fall.
Elise said it will be “different” not having her sister with her next year and she will really miss her.
“But I’ll deal with it,” she said.