Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer coach Tim Barton has many methods for determining whether senior Rachel Chizever or classmate Makenzie Howell starts at goalkeeper for his team.

Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer coach Tim Barton has many methods for determining whether senior Rachel Chizever or classmate Makenzie Howell starts at goalkeeper for his team.

If an opponent uses a lot of crosses or high balls, the starting nod usually goes to Chizever. If the Cardinals need to stop penalty kicks, the duty goes to Howell. The rest of the time, it often comes down to a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors."

"You wouldn't think (that would be the best way to decide), but Rachel and I are pretty much even," said Howell, whose team was 2-0 before facing Upper Arlington in its OCC-Central Division opener Aug. 30. "It comes down to what the coach wants to do. I'm not going to argue with it."

"We know each other's strengths and weaknesses and we're very accommodating," Chizever said. "If we are playing a team that is good at one certain thing that I'm good at stopping, then she's cool with me taking the spot. If she is better at something, I'm cool with her playing."

Chizever and Howell each played a half in the first two games. Both had a total of three saves, as the Cardinals defeated Mansfield Madison 3-1 on Aug. 23 and beat Olentangy 1-0 on Aug. 25.

The goalkeepers should be tested in OCC-Central play in the coming weeks, particularly when the Cardinals play host to Hilliard Davidson on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and travel to Dublin Coffman on Sept. 13.

Davidson won the OCC-Central title last year with a 6-0-1 record, with Coffman (5-0-2), Upper Arlington (5-1-1), Thomas (3-3-1) and Worthington Kilbourne (3-3-1) rounding out the five.

The past two years, the Cardinals are a combined 0-5-1 against Davidson, Coffman and UA, having been outscored 15-2 in those six games.

Chizever, however, believes the results could be different this year.

"When our team clicks, we can hang with any of those teams, no problem," she said. "If we can make those passes, communicate well and score goals, we're going to be all right."

While some may argue that it is better to have one goalkeeper carry the workload rather than having two share the load, Barton said the Cardinals have been making it work for more than two seasons.

"In the past, we'd be recruiting players from the basketball team or whoever we can find to play keeper," Barton said. "You kind of want one to step up and be that every-game keeper. Every time one of them steps it up, the other just follows her."

High school has not been the first time that Chizever and Howell have been playing with and competing against each other. When they were 7 years old, both played for the Wave, a Greater Outerbelt Youth Soccer League team, with current teammates Robin Gwin, Kim Hoerauf, Megan Insley and Kendall Kwiatkowski. The following season, Chizever missed the age cutoff by six days and moved to another team.

Both ended up playing for the Worthington United, with Chizever playing on the Under-12 team and Howell competing for the U-11 squad. Chizever was a backup goalkeeper until she was 11 when her team's starting goalie broke her arm.

"I've played goalie ever since then," she said with a laugh. "At that age, coaches put you in and hope you're not afraid of the ball."

Chizever and Howell were reunited in high school in 2008 and both competed to replace 2009 graduate Camille Patterson as the starting goalie in 2009. That season, Howell played the first half of games and Chizever played the second half. The Cardinals finished 5-8-4 that season, giving up 34 goals - an average of 2.0 goals a game.

Last year, the Cardinals cut their number of goals allowed in half, giving up 17 goals - an average of .89 a game - while finishing 8-6-5.

Despite sharing the playing time, Chizever and Howell continue to support each other.

"We have a good chemistry together," Howell said. "We're good friends on and off the field. There's always going to be some conflicts, but that's how life is. We just get through it."

"Having that senior leadership position at the keeper position has been great for us," Barton said.

"Our goalkeepers provide that spark that should help us on that side of the ball."