Most freshmen in collegiate softball enter their first season unknown and are held only to the expectations for them within their own program.
LSU freshman outfielder Aliyah Andrews does not have that luxury as the younger sister of LSU former All-American center fielder A.J. Andrews.
Every time she steps out into the LSU outfield, Aliyah embraces the pressure that comes from being compared to her sister as motivation to surpass A.J.’s accomplishments.
“I do have pressure outside and on myself because I want to be as good as her,” Aliyah said. “The pressure just keeps me going. The expectations keep me moving. I work harder because I can be better than her.”
Although Aliyah comes into the LSU program determined to make a name for herself, her teammates and coaches cannot help but see a little A.J. in her mannerisms.
“It’s really like a flashback for me,” said junior outfielder Emily Griggs. “I got to play in center field with A.J. in preseason my freshman year. Some of the things they do, I’m like ‘Which one are you, again?’”
Aliyah and A.J. both noted how growing up together leads to similarities in the ways that they talk, they laugh and how they say things to people.
According to A.J., one of the main personality traits they share is a hatred of losing, which was forged as they grew up playing sports and drives them to push their limits.
Although the pair certainly are alike in many ways, Aliyah was quick to distinguish how they are the most different.
“We’re both very outgoing, but she’s more in your face not afraid to do anything or say anything at any time,” Aliyah said. “I’m a little more laid back and reserved.”
Despite their shared competitive mindset, the Andrews sisters have distinctive styles of play that reflect their personalities in the way that they use the blazing speed that runs in the family.
During her LSU career, A.J. made her mark with eye-catching defensive plays, particularity diving catches or leaping grabs at the outfield wall in center field. At the plate, A.J. used her speed to record 19 triples, tied for third in program history, and 97 stolen bases, which also ranks third.
A.J.’s self-described “in your face style” suited her role in the lineup as a leadoff hitter by allowing her to get inside an opposing pitcher’s head and shake up her confidence. A.J. left LSU with the third-most career walks in Tiger history with 116.
“I’m really aggressive,” A.J. said. “When I’m up to bat or when I take the field, I’m someone who is trying to dominate.”
Contrary to A.J.’s style, which clearly displays her effort to reach each and every ball, Aliyah makes the similar plays while seeming to exert no effort.
“Aliyah is just really smooth,” A.J. said. “She’s one of those players that doesn’t look like she’s even trying … She’s sneaky good where I’m trying to be in your face.”
A.J. found her niche almost immediately as a leadoff and center fielder during her freshman campaign. However, Aliyah will be used in multiple capacities this season as LSU head coach Beth Torina attempts to use her speed in every way possible, from pinch running to playing left field.
For Torina, coaching Aliya after A.J. presents a constant problem—avoiding comparing the two as siblings.
“I try everyday not to compare Aliyah to A.J., but I finally told Aliyah, ‘I’m not comparing you to your sister. I’m comparing you to the best outfielder that’s ever played here,’ Torina said. “She said, ‘I understand that, and I thank you for thinking that I could be that.’… She has a lot of the great qualities that A.J. brought, but she also has a lot great qualities that are going to make her special in her own right.”
While Torina doesn’t approve of comparing Aliyah to her sister, A.J. wants her own success with the Tigers to drive Aliyah to achieve more.
“It’s inevitable that she’s going to be compared to me, and so I think she wants the comparison to weigh out on her end, rightfully so,” A.J. said. “At the end of the day, I’m done playing at LSU. There’s nothing more I can do for this program, so for my sister to be able to come out here and excel. And if she excels far more than I did, then I would be nothing be proud and excited for her.”
Photo by Sean Gasser.