By Michael Sudhalter
Twins Katie and Lexie Stone have enjoyed many experiences together over the past two decades.
They’ll add another adventure when they compete as volleyball teammates in the Women’s Open Division of the Pan American Maccabi Games from Dec. 27 to Jan. 4 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Being teammates is nothing new for the Stones, the daughters of Robin and Evan Stone. They recently turned 19 years old (Katie is 12 minutes older). They competed in high school for Greenhill, which is also their mother’s alma mater, in lacrosse, volleyball and basketball.
They’re freshmen students and members of the volleyball and lacrosse teams at Washington and Lee in Lexington, Virginia — a small college town 189.5 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.
They’ve played volleyball in the JCC Maccabi Games in both California and Georgia, but this will be their first time competing outside the United States.
“It’s going to be awesome to experience Buenos Aires,” Lexie said. “To see a new culture and to meet Jews from around the world will be great. It will be cool to represent the United States.”
Given the impact of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas and the ongoing war in Israel, the Pan American Games have taken on additional meaning to the athletes who are competing.
“It’s a unique opportunity to connect with other Jewish people around the world, see what they’re going through and build stronger connections with other Jewish people and athletes,” Katie said.
The Stones grew up going to Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas. They are the granddaughters of Bill and Jeri Finkelstein, longtime leaders in the Dallas Jewish community.
“Our family instilled the importance of us being involved in the Jewish community,” Lexie said. “(Being Jewish) is such as prominent part of our lives, I am lucky to say.”
The Stones are grateful for the Hillel House at Washington and Lee and said they have not experienced any of the antisemitism or anti-Zionism that has plagued other college campuses in the United States.
“We have a really prominent Hillel House,” Katie said. “The Jewish population isn’t that large, but the Hillel House is open to the whole community. Even my non-Jewish friends will eat at Hillel almost every day.”
They chose Washington and Lee primarily for academics but also for the opportunity to compete in athletics at the NCAA Division III level.
“We absolutely love (Washington and Lee),” Lexie said. “It’s a great place. The classes are small, so we get a lot of attention from our professors.”
Washington and Lee students are encouraged to take a wide variety of courses and declare a major at the beginning of their junior year. The twins list mathematics, economics and physics among their academic interests.
Athletically, the twins were part of Washington and Lee’s improbable run to the NCAA Division III volleyball tournament. The Generals (22-11) finished fourth in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference but upset top-seeded Virginia Wesleyan and No. 2 seed Randolph-Macon to win the conference tournament, thus an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. They lost in the first round of the NCAA to Berry College from Georgia.
“We learned a lot, made a lot of friends on the team and we’re excited for the future,” Katie said.
Upon returning from Argentina, the Stones will head back to campus four days later, on Jan. 8. They’ll begin the second semester on Jan. 11 and start training for lacrosse season shortly thereafter.
“We’re very used to (a busy schedule),” Lexie said. “In high school, we never had a break. We went from one sport to the next. That’s how we like to operate.”
The Stones aren’t the only Dallas-area athletes involved in the Maccabi Pan American Games.
Todd Dreyer is playing on the Men’s Masters 55+ soccer team.
Zander Kennedy (Greenhill), who plans on playing in college, will compete in the U18 Boys’ soccer tournament, along with Eli Krengel (Plano West) and Matan Tsaroya (Akiba Yavneh).
Ella Sharoni (Plano) will play U16 Girls’ volleyball.
Lilly Yalovsky (Akiba Yavneh) will play U18 Girls’ basketball.
Sadie Werner (Greenhill) will play U16 Girls’ soccer.
Alan Sandler is assistant coach for the U18 Girls’ soccer team.
Barry Waranch is the vice chairman for all the Pan American Games soccer teams, as well as the European Games next summer and the Israel Games, scheduled for 2025. He is also the chair and assistant coach for the U18 Boys’ soccer team.
Profiles on several of these participants can be found at www.tjpnews.com/sports.