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In today’s modern world, with satellite television, high speed internet, and other mass media tools, the idea of famous twins no longer strikes us as strange. Everyone knows about the Barbers of the NFL, the Olsens of teen magazines, and the Tornariti of Harvard.
“Yeah, that’s a little nickname we gave them,” said Harvard men’s soccer coach John Kerr with a chuckle.
Their names are Anthony and Nicholas Tornaritis—together, they are known as “the Tornariti.” The two sophomore midfielders are providing Harvard with one of the deadliest one-two combinations in Ivy League sports today.
“I would hate to go up against them game in and game out, because you never know what you’re going to get,” Kerr said.
Growing Up in Groton
The story of the Tornariti begins in Groton, Mass., a little town about an hour northwest of Boston, just a few miles shy of the New Hampshire border. It was here that the Tornariti legend began, as the two came to dominate the sports scene for years, propelling their high school to two state titles in soccer and a state finals appearance in basketball.
“It was sweet because when we won the soccer state title, the whole town cheered us on,” Anthony said.
The twins racked up the accolades at Groton-Dunstable High. They were both four-year varsity lettermen and four-year league all-stars. They were two-time All-State and New England all-stars, and the Lowell Sun named them Co-Players of the Year for the 2000-01 season.
Yet it was their work ethic, and not their awards, that the community remembers.
“They’re obviously leaving a lot of results in trophies, district championships, and stuff like that [behind],” said Groton-Dunstable Athletic Director David Robinson. “But what they left that was more valuable, for kids to see, is that if you work really, really hard at something, its going to pay off. That’s what really sets them apart.”
The famed Tornaritis’ drive had been fostering for years between the two boys, who have played with and against each other since they were in diapers. The constant competition propelled them to greater successes and gave them confidence as leaders.
During their senior year in the district basketball championship, Nicholas found himself with the ball down two points, and with just a few seconds left on the clock.
But rather than look to dish off the ball, Nick heaved up a shot from three point range and nailed it.
“No one would want that shot because of what it could mean if you missed it,” Robinson said. “But they wanted the ball, they wanted the shot. They may not have been the most talented basketball players, but they were the toughest. They were the glue and the heart of the team.”
With such reputation and skill, it didn’t take long before the colleges, including Harvard, came calling.
Kerr first spotted the duo by accident, when they happened to be playing on the field next to the team he was coaching.
“I looked over and I saw these two guys with a lot of skill and finesse, and they worked hard. To be honest, they were a bitch to play against.”
After seeing the Tornaritises, Kerr looked into their academic records to make sure he could recruit them. And once he discovered that the Tornaritises were Harvard caliber, Kerr made sure the admissions board knew about his finds.
The twins jumped at the chance to attend Harvard, eager to get away from the low level of play.
“We played teams whose players weren’t even considering playing in college,” Anthony said.
“To be honest, high school soccer is kind of a joke,” Nicholas said.
Frustration as First-Years
When the Tornaritises arrived in Cambridge, they looked forward to contributing immediately. But factors beyond their control limited their production.
During the preseason, Nicholas got hurt and didn’t see significant time until the sixth match of the year. The injury also put him behind physically, limiting his effectiveness on the field.
Anthony was also hit with the injury bug, missing all but six games.
By the end of the season, neither Anthony nor Nicholas had an assist or a goal, and the brothers had only three total shots between them in sixteen game appearances.
“Last year they weren’t very consistent,” Kerr said.
The lack of playing time affected both Tornaritises, driving them to work even harder back home in the off-season.
“Last year I played half a game [well] in the beginning of the season, and then I just sort of trailed off,” Anthony said. “I worked hard over the summer because I wanted to make it back.”
Little did the brothers know, they were being watched—and their determination to come back strong did not go unnoticed.
In early August, Robinson was on a routine tour of the athletic facilities to make sure that they would be ready for the upcoming fall seasons, when he spotted Tornaritis brothers.
“It was the hottest day of the summer without a doubt,” Robinson said. “And there’s Nick and Tony out playing. Tony was kicking the ball around on the soccer field and Nick was running on the track.”
“There was not another kid in Groton outside of their air conditioned homes that day.”
Not long after, Kerr began to notice their dedication as well. After an admirable preseason in Italy, the brothers eventually won starting spots on the competitive Crimson squad.
“I think it was a mental thing with those guys,” Kerr said. “They were disappointed in their freshman year and with their contribution. Coming back here with a different attitude, a more pro-active attitude, has really made a difference for them.”
One Tornaritis. Two Tornariti?
So far this season, Nicholas and Anthony have played a critical role in the Harvard lineup. As the consistent starters at the both of the wing midfield positions, the team has relied heavily on them to bring the ball up the field and set up the offense, feeding the likes of Kevin Ara, Matt Hoff and Brian Charnock to put the ball in the net.
This task is made even more difficult with the team’s new game plan which calls for a 3-5-2—three defenders, five midfielders, and two forwards. Unlike a typical 4-4-2, the 3-5-2 calls for speedy wingmen who are able to drop back on defense and play offense more often than in other formations. The Tornaritises are just the men for the job.
“They have great energy and a great work rate,” Kerr said. “They can defend. They can put great pressure on the ball. Plus, offensively, they’re a handful. They can take you on one on one; they can play it and get it back.”
Having such similar players in the same positions, but on opposite sides of the field, seems to put opponents in a whirlwind.
“I even get confused sometimes,” Kerr said. “I call Nick, ‘Tony’, and Tony ‘Nick’.”
Despite the twins’ improvement this season, Kerr still expects a higher output from the duo, who at times have had trouble finishing their drives.
“It doesn’t really matter if you go out there and blow by six guys,” Anthony said. “You just have to get a goal.”
And if the Tornaritises are able to improve their consistency, Kerr believes the sky is the limit.
“As outsiders, they’re not going to be able to score a lot of goals like Hoff, Charnock, or Kevin,” Kerr said. “But if we can get five, eight goals from them—then we’re going to have teams not just worrying about [the players in the middle].”
With the Tornariti at the wings, there seems to be no reason why teams shouldn’t already be worried.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com
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