Twin sisters Jessica and Sam Hammer are part of a sibling rivalry that is paying dividends for the East Ridge girls’ lacrosse team.
The Raptors enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A, Section 4 tournament with hopes of a first state tournament berth ever.
The Hammers have been playing varsity lacrosse at East Ridge since the eighth grade. Next year they’ll both play college lacrosse at Adams State University in Colorado.
“Sam and I are both very competitive; that’s definitely one similarity,” said Jessica Hammer, a senior captain and the team’s second-leading scorer. “We compete in literally everything — games, school, lacrosse, you name it. It only pushes you and makes you better.”
That competitive edge helped East Ridge, ranked 10th in Class 2A, finish the regular season 11-2 overall and 10-1 in the Suburban East Conference. The Raptors earned a share of the conference title — their first — and recorded a first-ever victory over Stillwater.
“I’m extremely pleased with how the girls have played and been on and off the field with their attitude,” first-year coach Andrea Peterson said. “It’s amazing how close they are with each other and how close they’ve become with me and the other coaches.”
The Hammers are one of 10 sets of siblings who are part of the East Ridge girls’ lacrosse program this year, something that’s helped make the team tight-knit in this momentous season.
“The girls have told me this offense and defense has never worked so well together,” said Peterson, who was part of three state championship teams as a player for Eden Prairie. “They understand each other. I think that’s the closeness we have as a team, not just because there are so many siblings. We kind of consider ourselves a whole family now.”
The Hammer sisters, who grew up in Colorado, have played lacrosse for seven years after being introduced to the sport by their cousin Dani Espinosa, who played for the University of Denver.
“It’s a really unique experience to be able to share this with your sister,” Jessica Hammer said. “It’s a lot of fun for sure. We definitely have an extra bond. I think we’ll look back on this and think about how fun it was.”
The girls were born on Jan. 7, 1996. Jessica is just slightly older.
“She kind of holds it against me sometimes, and we joke about it,” Sam Hammer said. “But, I sometimes look up to her and ask her for advice about some things. It’s nice to have her around.”
A quick and scrappy midfielder, Jessica Hammer earned all-conference honors and was nominated for all-state by the East Ridge coaches. She has 43 points on 27 goals and 16 assists in 13 games and led the Raptors in ground balls and draw controls. Peterson calls her an “all-around athlete” and said she has one of the hardest shots she’s seen at the high school level.
Though she doesn’t rack up the same stats as her sister, Sam Hammer is one of the best defenders in the Suburban East, according to Peterson, who was a defender in her playing days.
“We work together well,” Sam Hammer said. “We have that trust in each other. Over the years we’ve both improved our skills. We know each other’s style of play and can help each other.”
No matter how the playoffs turn out, Peterson said the Hammers are “awesome to be around” and have helped make her first year special.
“They’re honestly probably the nicest kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” Peterson said. “They’re two of the easiest kids to coach, and they’re always excited to be there. They put a smile on the faces of me and the other coaches every day.”