HINGHAM — Separated by 3,000 miles, Lilly Reale’s vast shadow has the range to reach out over her younger sister Sophie.
Lilly Reale’s sensational talent makes that a possibility and the former Hingham High soccer standout and U.S. Youth National Team member’s long list of accomplishments continues to grow as she starts as a freshman at center back this season for third-ranked UCLA.
With Lilly Reale’s exploits on the soccer pitch, much of the same becomes expected out of her younger sibling.
Despite the high expectations, Sophie Reale, a junior midfielder with the Harborwomen, is playing her way out of the darkness of her older sister’s shadow and shining brightly to give the Reales a star on each coast.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Sophie Reale of the bar her sister set. “I think it’s more of I just have to keep working to live up to that expectation and I think I can do it and she obviously supports me every day.”
For the eldest Reale, who has excelled at nearly every level she has played at, her most recent success comes in the new environment of collegiate soccer.
The 5-foot-9 defender was one of the marquee players in UCLA’s sixth-ranked recruiting class in the nation and immediately worked her way into the starting lineup of the powerhouse program, which was once home to Whitman-Hanson’s Sam Mewis.
While Lilly Reale suited up in pressure-packed games on an international stage along with at the high school and club level, she could still feel her heartbeat go up a few ticks when she made her college debut versus UC Irvine on Aug. 19.
“Definitely nerves,” said Lilly Reale of earning the start in UCLA’s season opener. “Just being really close with the girls in the back line definitely helped settle those because I know they have my back and just being able to talk to them too before the game, basically being able to put my emotions into words and talk to someone about it was definitely really helpful.”
Lilly Reale started in UCLA’s first five games, playing the full 90 minutes in three of those contests, before she sprained a ligament in her foot when she planted wrong versus Santa Clara on Sept. 9. The injury forced her to only miss one game before returning to the starting lineup.
She showed that even as she adjusts to the speed of the game and learns to make quicker decisions, she is a key component to UCLA’s defensive unit, which has been nothing short of phenomenal during the Bruins undefeated start.
With Lilly Reale making an immediate impact, UCLA has shutout seven straight opponents, including in a narrow 1-0 win over reigning national champion Santa Clara, and allowed just one combined shot on net in back-to-back wins over Loyola Marymount and Long Beach State.
For Lilly Reale, there’s nothing better as a defender than seeing a zero up on the scoreboard next to the opponent’s name when the final whistle sounds.
“That’s been probably something the defenders have been most proud of each game,” Lilly Reale said. “There’s only so much we can do to really help get into the attack. … I think defensively the shutout is definitely something we go into looking to keep each game.”
Sophie Reale is on a similar path to her sister’s. After playing just club soccer for South Shore Select as a freshman, the younger Reale decided as a sophomore, and with the help of the development academy folding, she would take her game to high school.
Lilly Reale was excited for her sister to play at that level, something she did as a freshman and sophomore before exclusively focusing on her club and national commitments.
Even though Sophie Reale’s first season with Hingham came during a truncated campaign with COVID-19 rule modifications, it’s been a rewarding experience.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Sophie Reale said. “I got to meet so many new people, I got to play with a lot of new faces. I think just playing with new people every day helps you grow a lot.”
It didn’t take long for Sophie Reale to showcase her immense skill with the Harborwomen. She quickly became one of the state’s elite players with her dynamic offensive ability.
In 14 games last year as a sophomore, she recorded 20 goals and 7 assists to garner Eastern Massachusetts Girls Soccer Coaches Association All-State honors along with being named the Patriot League Kennan MVP.
“She is a game changer,” said second-year Hingham coach Sarah Dacey. “When Sophie touches a ball all eyes are on her and she can do really, really special things.”
With the Reales playing on opposite coasts, the sisters make sure to keep tabs on each other. The two Facetime daily around their busy soccer schedules, keeping each other apprised on what is happening on the field and in their lives.
It only strengthened a tight bond between the two. The duo played on the same soccer teams growing up with Sophie Reale moving up an age group to suit up next to her sister.
While the two look out for one another, there’s also a good-natured competitiveness between them both. Right now, that is playing out with Sophie Reale trying to match the 36 goals Lilly Reale scored during her two-year high school career.
“With high school, I don’t know how many goals I scored, but it’s been funny to hear her trying to come for that number and stuff,” Lilly Reale said. “My dad is always kind of putting us in a competition type thing. So, that’s been funny to see how she’s doing.”
And when the younger Reale finds the back of the net, which occurs fairly regularly as she has 24 career goals with the Harborwomen, she makes sure her sister knows about it.
“I’m always like, “Oh goodness,’” Lilly Reale said. “If I can remember the team that we played, I’ll be like, ‘Well I got two that game,’ just to poke at her and stuff. It’s all just fun and games.”
Even though comparing the two is a natural exercise for onlookers, the two sisters don’t partake in it, especially now with them playing different positions.
But those comparisons come nonetheless, something Sophie Reale has to deal with a little more given the success of her older sister. Still it doesn’t faze her. She faces challenges head-on.
“I think Sophie is very strong minded,” Dacey said. “She knows that she’s going to draw two, three defenders every single game, but she still wants the ball. She still wants the ball when the game’s on the line. She wants the ball when the game’s not on the line. She never wants to come out. She’s the kind of kid that can handle the adversity and handle the pressure.”
The way she has handled it all along with her incredible talent turned Sophie Reale into a high level recruit. Like her older sister did before, Sophie Reale recently de-committed from Boston College and opened her recruitment back up.
Sophie Reale will most definitely have many suitors after her. Lilly Reale, who said she isn’t trying to push any schools on her sister, just so happens to know of a certain college on the west coast she thinks her sister would fit in well at.
It would give them the chance to play college soccer alongside one another and thrive together. That idea is tantalizing and could certainly become their reality in the future.
“She’s been on their radar for a little bit longer than I’ve even been here,” Lilly Reale said. “From that aspect, I haven’t really had to do any convincing with them. I don’t think I even really talked to them about it too much. I think it would definitely be something that would be awesome and just add to the experience of college for me to have my sister, especially when we’re that close already.”