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Seeing Double

Soccer: UCLA's women's team includes one set of twins, two players with twin siblings and the Bruins' unofficial mascots, the coach's twin daughters.

November 14, 1998|SCOTT MOE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA women's soccer Coach Todd Saldana has an unusual exchange system with some of his athletes.

He tries to make them better soccer players and in return, they try to make him a better parent.

Saldana's wife, Denise, gave birth to twin girls in August.

The Bruins have two players, Beth Thompson and Skylar Little, who have twin siblings.

They also have Breana and Krista Boling, freshman twins from San Jose.

And from them came advice that Saldana listens to as earnestly as his players listen to him.

"In preseason, when his wife was pregnant, we told him it would be a strain with twins," Breana Boling said. "So we tried giving him a tip of the day."

Said Saldana: "[The Bolings] would say things like, 'Don't always dress them alike or let them sleep in the same crib.'

"Skylar was the same way, telling me the things her parents did that she liked and didn't."

The swap of information has worked for Saldana and his players.

Thompson, Little and the Bolings have been major players for the Bruins, who finished in a three-way tie for first in the Pacific 10 Conference with a 7-2 record, 17-3-1 overall. Today they host Brigham Young in the second round of the NCAA tournament at 1 p.m. at UCLA's North Athletic Field.

Saldana's new twins, Dominique and Antoinette, have become unofficial team mascots. They attend every home game and made the trip to Arizona last weekend.

And Saldana has gotten to learn from three different twin scenarios that have made him think of his twins' future.

"I'm hoping [his twins] are as close as the Bolings," Saldana said. "They're different because they're fraternal like my girls, but they still stay together."

The Bolings, 18, have stayed together, but Thompson, 20, is the only girl among six children.

Thompson and her twin brother, Brian, had different interests and different friends, Thompson said of their childhood. "We got along but never had a special connection."

That's not the same for the Littles.

Little's identical twin, Jackie, is a forward on second-ranked Santa Clara, probably UCLA's next opponent if it defeats BYU. But they are close even though they are at different schools.

"We try to talk every day," Skylar Little said. "We write letters once a week.

"We've always been best friends. There was never a time in our lives when we were without each other."

Until 1996.

"We kind of wanted different schools so we could have our own identities," Jackie Little said. "Sometimes we joke about transferring to be together."

Now, Saldana uses Jackie as motivation for Skylar, a defender who has started every game for the Bruins.

"If Jackie scores, I tell Skylar, 'Now you need to get a shutout. That's her role and that's your role,' " he said.

If UCLA and Santa Clara win this weekend, Skylar Little will have to defend against her sister, a three-time All-West Coast Conference forward.

"If it made sense to match them up, then I would," Saldana said. "But now [Skylar] is a sweeper, which makes her an asset to us because she could cover for others."

But Skylar Little said playing one on one against her sister is inevitable.

"She's a forward and I'm a fullback," she said. "I know her moves and what she likes to do."

It's not something the Little family is looking forward to, either.

"It would be a heartbreaker no matter how it goes," said their mother, Paulette Little. Like the Littles, the Bolings were inseparable as children, even when they had separate rooms.

"A lot of times, they'd go to bed in their own rooms, but in the morning they'd be in the same room," said their father, Michael.

Now, they not only live together, they have the same classes and don't go far without one another.

"Going to school together was something we wanted to do," Breana Boling said. "That's why sometimes I'll ask Skylar, 'How could you [and Jackie] separate like that?' "

Skylar said that seeing the Bolings together often reminds her of Jackie and herself.

The Bolings had something else in common with the Littles during last year's recruiting process.

"Krista committed to UCLA, and the most difficult time was waiting for Breana to commit," Michael Boling said. "There was even a little fear that Breana would pick USC."

They not only went to school together, but became teachers for their coach before they were students at UCLA.

"It was in the preseason, about a week before [Dominique and Antoinette Saldana] got here," Saldana said of when the tip of the day began. "You can read all the books in the world, but nothing beats talking to [twins].

"This is their way of teaching me. I'm learning how to raise my girls."

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