- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

As the Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team watched the NCAA selection show Monday evening, the Phoenix erupted in applause not once, but twice.

Green Bay junior forward Lydia Bauer’s younger sister, Audrey, is a sophomore forward for Navy, giving each of them a pair of rooting interests as the NCAA tournament begins this weekend.

“My team knows that my sister plays for Navy,” Lydia Bauer said. “We support Navy, and Navy supports us. When we saw Navy up on the screen [during the selection show], my whole team started clapping.”

Cheering for each other is nothing new for the sisters from Lake Zurich, Ill., who have been teammates the majority of their athletic careers. The girls learned how to play while spending countless hours rebounding each other’s shots, and with a mother who coached high school basketball, the gym became a second home.

“Me and my sister, and even my little brother, would go to practice with [our mom] after school,” said Audrey, the younger sister by 17 months. “We kind of grew up in the gym.”

Their mother, Rachel Bauer, played basketball for Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and their father, Andrew, ran cross-country for Winona State. As the daughters of two college athletes, the girls played a number of sports growing up, but basketball stood out for both.

“I knew that they enjoyed playing basketball,” said their mother. “It wasn’t really forced on them, they just always had an opportunity.”

Sports were a family effort in the Bauer household, and when the girls were in the fifth and fourth grade respectively, their father coached them to a conference tournament championship — a day Lydia recalls as one of her fondest memories sharing the game with her family.

“[Our dad] had a very unique approach to coaching us and just getting us motivated before games,” she said. “It was never a lot of X’s and O’s talk, it was more about going out there and having fun.”

With basketball as a common ground, the sisters still enjoy postgame talks with their parents and younger brother, Jerry, who plays varsity basketball at their alma mater, Lake Zurich High School. The strong support system gave the girls confidence and shaped them into Division I athletes, eventually leading Lydia to Green Bay and Audrey to Navy.

“I had them both for four years, and the first thing I would tell you is that they’re very different,” said Christopher Bennett, the Bauers’ former high school basketball coach. “Lydia is very much the quiet, game-face competitor, very serious. And Audrey [is] a little bit more happy-go-lucky — always smiling; nothing ever gets her down.”

Though Audrey is the more carefree of the two, the younger sister was drawn to Navy’s academic rigor and the opportunity to serve in the military.

“I was just really impressed with the kind of people that are associated with [the] academy and I wanted to be a part of that,” Audrey said. “I couldn’t bring myself to pass up the opportunity to come” to Navy.

Lydia, on the other hand, was interested in Green Bay’s history of success as a basketball program.

Despite their schools’ different locations, the girls were determined to watch each other play as much as possible, and thanks to the Internet, they have fans watching live action from hundreds of miles away.

“There are some times where I’ve had my laptop and my desktop on and [I] watch them play at the same time,” their mother said.

Last March, the Bauers had the opportunity to watch the games of a lifetime as both daughters played in the NCAA tournament.

Lydia made her first NCAA appearance the previous season, when Green Bay got an at-large bid - inspiring Audrey, who was a high school senior at the time. Last spring, Audrey joined her sister as Navy made its NCAA tournament debut. This year, for the second time, both sisters saw their schools’ names flash across the screen during the selection show.

Patriot League champion Navy (18-13), the 15th seed in the Raleigh region, will play No. 2 seed Maryland on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. in College Park. Green Bay (30-1), seeded No. 7 in the Kingston region, will play Iowa State on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in Ames, Iowa.

Unlike last year, when circumstances kept the Bauers at home to watch the games online and on television, the girls this year will have at least one family member in the stands. The sisters’ father will fly to Maryland to watch Audrey face the Terrapins, and the girls’ mother and brother will drive to Iowa for Lydia’s evening tipoff.

While both sisters are determined to take their teams as deep into the tournament as possible, even as potential competitors, they continue to root for each other’s success.

“I definitely still cheer for her and her team, Audrey said. “If we end up matching up, I think at that point I’d have to stop cheering for her. But until then, she’s got my support.”