The power of the (Campbell) sisters
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Sisters Eliza and Olivia Campbell recently experienced a little déjà vu.
The two sisters had taken a photo holding the WIAA Division 2 girls’ basketball gold ball after playing integral parts in Notre Dame Academy winning the state championship in March 2014.
Seven years later, the duo was back holding a gold ball as assistant coaches after the Tritons won this year’s Division 2 state title.
“I don’t know which one is more special for them, but I think it’s a different feeling being on the other end of it vs. as a player,” said Notre Dame coach Sara Rohde, who coached the Campbells and added them to her staff. “I think it would be a memorable moment for both of them.”
Both of the Campbells played college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh following their time at Notre Dame.
“It sounds arrogant, but it’s one of those things where we’re like, ‘Yeah, it was fun we did that again,’” joked Eliza, who is a 2014 graduate of Notre Dame. “We got another picture, and it was super cool. At the time, you don’t recognize how cool it is until you look back on it years later. Present-day, I’m more nostalgic toward when we did it in high school. I’m sure in a few years, I’ll be looking back on this one, smiling.”
Olivia said to win it as a player – she and her sister won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014 – and now as a coach is a big deal.
“It means so much,” said Olivia, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2016. “I loved it as a player, but a huge reason is Sara sets up her teams to be successful. I was lucky enough to play for Sara all four years. During my time at Notre Dame, we had two state titles and three state trips. She sets you up for success. She puts it in your mind you’re a great team, and you’re the best.”
Rohde said she loves having former players on her staff.
She hired Eliza three seasons ago and added Olivia before this season.
Eliza was on the bench for all of Notre Dame’s games this season, while Olivia coached the junior varsity squad.
For varsity games, Olivia took care of stats but was on the bench lending a coaching hand for the state tournament.
“It’s been great having both of them because they know and understand the culture we’re trying to maintain with our program,” said Rohde, who has won three state titles in her 10 seasons. “They’ve been through it as well, so that helps. It helps they know what we’re trying to teach and what we expect from the players. Anytime you can have that with your assistant coaches, it’s a bonus.”
With Eliza knowing what this year’s Notre Dame players were going through and feeling in the state tournament, she tried to talk to the girls and offer guidance.
“I tried to find a balance with it,” Eliza said. “Before the championship game, I was able to have a few conversations with some of the girls like (freshmen) Gracie Grzesk and Trista Fayta, because my sophomore year we made it to state, and we got it handed to us by New London. I told them, ‘When I played my sophomore year, I tried to do everything, and I put so much pressure on myself, I forgot to play.’”
Eliza said she also addressed this year’s seniors – Sammy Opichka, Charley Apple, Georgia Gregoire and Faith Barington – before the championship game.
Another family state title
Winning state adds another title to the Campbell family and relatives.
Eliza and Olivia’s grandfather, Roy Smits, guided the Green Bay Premontre boys’ basketball team to a state championship in the 1981-82 season.
It’s the lone boys’ basketball state title at Premontre, which became Notre Dame Academy in 1990.
Grandpa Smits watched the Notre Dame girls in the state tournament.
In the days following, he called both his granddaughters to congratulate them.
“He called saying how proud he was of us,” said Olivia.
Eliza added: “I never knew what it felt like to win as a coach and he did. “That is cool we get to reflect on that. He watches all of our games.”
Notre Dame has found its secret to success over the years: having sisters on the team.
All three state titles Rohde has won, she’s had at least two combinations of sisters on the team.
“To be successful, we always said it’s the power of the sister,” Olivia said.
During the 2012-13 season, it was the Campbells, Borseths (Carli and Kayla) and Rapisardas (Sabrina and Melaina); the following year, it was the Campbells and Borseths; this season, it was the Barington trio (Faith, Hope and Grace) and Apples (Charley and Danika).
The Campbells said they knew this year’s team was destined to win the state title.
“Liza said, ‘There’s no way we can’t win,’” Olivia said. “I said, ‘Yep – the power of the sisters.’ That’s kind of been the running joke.”