After picking up flowers for his daughters, Tim Attanasi was en route to Washington Township High School last week when another car rammed into his vehicle head on. Thankfully, Attanasi was OK.
But he was scrambling. He had to get to the high school at 4 p.m. It was Senior Night for the Minutemaids soccer team, a team that includes Amanda and Taylor Attanasi.
With an assist from his sons, Austin and Gavin, the former long-time Township police officer arrived on time. If he hadn’t, he probably could have gotten some help from one of the few dozen girls carrying pom poms on the sidelines.
“I’m sure when you talked with them, you found out who the boss is,” Tim Attanasi said with a chuckle. “Paige took the mother role, she really did. She helps me out with a lot of stuff: Christmas shopping, planning graduation parties. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
A long and sometimes trying high school career is almost over for the Attanasi triplets, but they are relishing every moment. And they’re grateful to have had each other every step of the way.
“You’re never scared going anywhere because you’re never going alone,” said Paige, who gave up soccer for cheerleading before middle school. “You not only have someone,” she continued, “but you have two other people to be with.”
During their freshman year, the Attanasi triplets had to endure their parents divorce, which according to Tim, left him as a single parent. Three years later, they are going through an uncertain senior year when a pandemic is causing havoc daily: Amanda and Taylor’s soccer season was shut down for two-and-a-half weeks due to COVID-19 and Paige’s chance to cheer at football games has also been interrupted multiple times (this week’s game was canceled; there have only been three football games so far).
More tragically, the girls’ maternal grandfather, Art Kulikowski, who Tim Attanasi called “the soccer team’s No. 1 fan who never missed a game,” passed away last month from COVID-19. He was 76.
“Keep on fighting is what I tell them,” Tim Attanasi said. “You will be stronger people in life and be able to tackle adversity when it comes along.”
The Attanasi triplets have had to grow up fast. In doing so, they’ve left a lasting imprint both at school and at home. While Paige chips in to help her dad with regular chores and is a vocal supporter on the sidelines like her grandfather, Amanda and Taylor Attanasi have left an athletic legacy their late aunt, Martina, a former star basketball player at Paul VI High School, would be proud of.
Both were members of the Minutemaids team that claimed a South Jersey Group 4 sectional championship in 2017. Amanda, who has a full scholarship to continue her soccer career at James Madison University, set a school record with 29 goals as a freshman and has hardly slowed down, entering last weekend with a school record 73 goals in her career. Taylor, meanwhile, has been an important cog in two successful Washington Township varsity programs for four years in both soccer and basketball; she is still eyeing opportunities to play basketball in college.
“They have that sisterly bond and love,” Washington Township soccer coach Katie Sachs said. “One minute they’re getting along and the next minute they’re yelling at each other. … But at the same time they look out for each other; they’re great kids. They’re leaders on and off the field.”
They’ve also been able to lean on and learn from each other, whether it’s for help with homework or navigating other issues as a teenager.
For Tim Attanasi, it probably doesn’t feel like that long ago that the trio was dressed up the same with identical haircuts as toddlers. His daughters, who have all formed their own identities and are proud of their independence, are glad those days are long gone.
“When we would go to stores, people would be like, ‘Are they all yours?’ to my mom,” Paige recalled. “Everyone would say the same three words: ‘God bless you.’”
The triplets laughed.
Although they’re enduring an irregular senior year and are hopeful they don’t have to have a repeat of last spring before they graduate – their older brother, Austin, missed his final baseball season along with Senior Trip and prom – they know they’ll still have each other for the rest of a trying 2020, an uncertain 2021, and beyond.
“We had to adjust pretty early, learning to do things on our own,” Paige said.
“(Amanda) is going away (to college),” Taylor said. “But we’re all ready at this point. We’re all responsible and mature.”
After sharing a room for 18 years, they’ll move out and move on, but their unique sisterly bond will remain.
“I’m very proud, filled with a lot of emotion, to see them graduate this year,” Tim Attanasi said. “Everyone is very close in the family. (And the three of them) are a great support group within.”