The opening chapters of the McCann sisters' soccer story were written in the front yard of the family's Cape May Court House home.
Like any good pickup game, Danielle and younger sister Jenn would improvise when it came to setting up sidelines and goals.
"We normally played one-on-one," Danielle said. "We used trees as nets and we used to try to kick it over each other's heads."
Jenn recalled chasing errant shots into the neighbor's yard.
"She always put me in goal," Jenn said. "She would make me fish the ball out of the trees after she kicked it over my head."
The McCanns have come a long way since their early playing days but their competitive nature is just as fierce as ever.
Danielle is a 17-year-old senior forward and Jenn is a 15-year-old sophomore midfielder.
The duo is a big reason why the Middle Township High School soccer team is one of the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference's best. After losing their season-opener to Vineland, Middle has reeled off five straight wins to improve to 5-1.
"They are both tremendous competitors," Middle coach Bob Wishart said. "They are two kids that I have never had to yell at, never had to tell to run harder. They are two great kids."
The McCann sisters say they push each other harder than anyone else can.
"We are very competitive as sisters," Danielle said. "We are always beating up on each other. We are pretty hard on each other but it always ends up being a good thing. It helps us get better."
But it all pays off when the two connect on a nice play or combine to score a goal.
"Whenever she scores or something, I love running up to her and giving her a high-five," Jenn said. "Knowing that she worked so hard to break through defenders and get me the ball or something, it's an amazing moment."
When Jenn arrived at Middle last year as a freshman, it didn't take Wishart long to realize that the sisters needed to be on the same team in practice and scrimmages.
"I think (Jenn) challenges herself to beat (Danielle)," Wishart said. "When we're in practice, they have to be on the same team because if I put them on opposite teams, one of them isn't going to make it to our next game."
Danielle was a first-team Press All-Star last season after scoring 30 goals. She has scored five goals this season to give her 82 career tallies, 26 shy of Tara Davies' school record.
Jenn has scored three goals this season and has been stellar setting up teammates, including assists on two of Danielle's goals.
Danielle is a captain along with Trish Stump and goalkeeper Olivia Salvo.
Salvo was a first-team Press All-Star last season with 10 shutouts. She has 22 career clean sheets, leaving her just 5 short of Rebecca Sykes' career-record of 27.
The Panthers face a tough Cedar Creek (4-1) team on Friday with a showdown with Lower Cape May Regional around the corner on Oct. 4. The winner of that game will be in the driver's seat to win CAL National Division I.
The McCanns will almost certainly have big cheering sections at both games as parents John and Marni McCann as well as grandparents and other family members frequent their games.
But Danielle is planning on playing at The College of New Jersey next season while Jenn will be a junior at Middle.
"I'm definitely going to be sad," Danielle said. "I'm just trying to enjoy every game and make the best of every day that we have playing together."
Jenn said she would miss being teammates with her big sister.
"She's great," Jenn said. "I look up to her for everything and I know that no matter what the situation is I can go to her for advice, whether it's for soccer or not and I'm going to miss her when she's gone."
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