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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

‘It’s a full circle moment:’ Colton sisters face off during Wake Forest-UNC soccer match

Emotions run heavy for Abbie and Emily Colton
Cooper Sullivan
Sisters Emily, left, and Abbie Colton, right, were literally matched up against each other at the midfielder position during the Wake Forest-UNC soccer match on Oct. 13, 2023.

When most fans go to Spry Stadium to watch a soccer match, they go with one team in mind. They wear that one team’s colors, cheer for that one team’s performance and celebrate — or mourn — that one team’s final score.

Debbi and Jeff Colton are not most fans. 

On Friday night, the couple sat in Spry Stadium’s unofficial parents section ready to cheer on their daughter Abbie Colton, a junior midfielder for the Wake Forest women’s soccer team. They make the trip from their house in Chapel Hill to Winston-Salem quite regularly, but on Friday night, there was another reason. Emily Colton, a junior midfielder for the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team and Abbie Colton’s twin sister, was on the opposing sideline.

“We are clearly a house divided,” Debbi Colton says while sporting a Wake Forest t-shirt and UNC ballcap. “Clearly.”

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Jeff Colton wears his split allegiance subtly, dressed in a plain black hat and tee with blue jeans, but his face beams with pride when he sees his daughters mark one another on the pitch. However, the parents’ calm demeanor is misleading. This is the most nerve-wracking game they’ve watched their daughters play.

The Oct. 13 match between the Demon Deacons and No. 3-ranked Tar Heels was the first time the Colton sisters played against each other in their 15-year soccer career. 

Originally from Southern California, Abbie and Emily Colton began playing soccer when they were five years old, starting out with the City SC San Diego club team. They very quickly fell in love with the sport.

By the fall of her freshman year, Emily Colton was offered a scholarship and committed to play collegiate soccer at UNC. By the time she graduated from La Costa Canyon High, Emily Colton had already gained international playing experience while representing multiple age groups of the U.S. Women’s National Team. While still with City SC, Abbie Colton was named a team captain three times and defensive midfielder of the year in her final season. Abbie Colton did not decide on Wake Forest until her senior year of high school, but she had known all along she wanted to be close to her sister. 

“We are best friends,” Abbie Colton said. “We never fight or anything. Maybe trash talk a couple times, but not a lot.”

Emily Colton agreed. “She’s amazing. I love her so much. She’s literally my number one fan and I’m hers.”

Debbi and Jeff Colton would soon follow suit, moving across the country from Carlsbad, Calif., to Chapel Hill in order to follow their daughter’s college careers. Both parents attend every home match, and if there happens to be a schedule overlap, they will split up to make sure both Wake Forest and UNC are cheered for.

“They’ve given everything to us,” Abbie Colton said. “A lot of both my and my sister’s success has come from them. They’ve never pressured us to play soccer; they’re always here supporting [us]; they moved out here actually to watch us. I think we were both playing for them today more than anyone.”

The sisters’ parents and grandparents — who flew in from Texas to catch the match — were engrossed in every play, gasping with every breakaway, wincing at every tackle and congratulating every heads-up decision, regardless of which team it was. And if Abbie or Emily Colton had possession of the ball, all eyes were glued onto the field.

We were just like, ‘holy shit. This is insane.’ She was like, ‘you’re doing great’ and I was like, ‘you’re doing great.’ We said ‘I love you’ before and after, so it was cool, super cool.

— Abbie Colton, Midfielder for the Wake Forest Women's Soccer Team

“It was amazing,” Emily Colton said. “I think [for] both my parents — especially my mom, I think it was just such an amazing moment for her. We’ve obviously both dreamed of playing college soccer and to see us both on the field, playing against each other and starting, I mean? I think she couldn’t be more proud of us.”

Because their positions mirrored each other — Abbie Colton plays defensive midfielder and Emily Colton plays attacking midfielder — the twins were next to each other, guarding one another, for the entirety of their time in the match (66 minutes for Emily Colton, 82 for Abbie Colton).

“She’s been playing on the right, I’ve been on the left, so we kind of knew we were going to go right up against each other,” Emily Colton said. “It was such a surreal feeling. I think going in we were both super nervous, but also super excited. I mean, we’ve been waiting for this day for like three years.”

As Abbie Colton said, “the pride I had was on another level just because it’s a full circle moment for both of us.”

Wake Forest played UNC in Chapel Hill, almost a year prior to the day, but Abbie Colton did not appear in the 1-0 defeat. She redshirted her sophomore season, sitting out to recover from a torn ACL. The injury was a tough blow for Abbie Colton, the same one Emily Colton suffered while in high school. With her sister’s encouragement, Abbie Colton has not only returned to the pitch this year, but has also become an integral part of Wake Forest season, in which she has started in 13 games and logged over 1,000 minutes.

“We were just like, ‘holy shit. This is insane,’” Abbie Colton said. “She was like, ‘you’re doing great’ and I was like, ‘you’re doing great.’ We said ‘I love you’ before and after, so it was cool, super cool.”

It was also an emotional day for Wake Forest team captain Emily Murphy, as the former Tar Heel scored the equalizing goal with 13 minutes remaining to secure a 1-1 draw for the Demon Deacons. 

As the minutes ticked down, and the crowd chanted the remaining seconds, there was one more wave of emotion. For all the Coltons, that really just happened. The final whistle blew, and the scoreboard read exactly what Debbi Colton wanted to see. 

“It’s a tie. Mama’s happy. It’s a tie.”

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About the Contributor
Cooper Sullivan
Cooper Sullivan, Sports Editor
Cooper Sullivan is a senior from Winston-Salem majoring in Communication with double minors in Journalism and Art History. He enjoys long walks on the beach, dancing like no one is watching and "committing to the bit".

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