Utah Valley University soccer defender Jenna Shepherd Gremillion, left, and her younger sister, Brigham Young University midfielder Jamie Shepherd, play for rival Utah County schools. The sisters’ respective teams split their games in 2022. (Photos courtesy of UVU Athletics and BYU Photo)
Meet college soccer’s Shepherd sisters: Elite Latter-day Saint athletes, devoted siblings — and crosstown BYU/UVU rivals
Utah Valley University’s Jenna Shepherd Gremillion and her younger sister, BYU’s Jamie Shepherd, are linked by their love of soccer, family and faith
By Jason Swensen
6 Feb 2023
Let’s get something out of the way early in this profile of the Shepherd sisters — two elite Latter-day Saint college soccer players who compete for rival schools located just 10 minutes apart:
Don’t expect much smack talk. Don’t wait for any meme-worthy trolling. When Utah Valley University’s Jenna Shepherd Gremillion and Brigham Young University’s Jamie Shepherd sat down with Church Ball Magazine, they never even uttered that fairly benign term “sibling rivalry.”
Jenna and Jamie are, first and foremost, devoted sisters. They are one another’s biggest fans and trusted soccer confidants.
But they are also uber-competitive D1 athletes coming off unforgettable 2022 seasons that included a pair of historic UVU/BYU matchups that each Shepherd sister — one a Wolverine, the other a Cougar — wanted desperately to win.
Both tasted victory and defeat.
UVU and BYU split their games in 2022.
On Sept. 10, UVU notched its first ever women’s soccer win over BYU, defeating the Cougars 4-2 in a match that included an assist from Jenna.
Almost two months later, the Cougars avenged that loss with a 3-0 victory over the Wolverines in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This time, Jamie collected an assist.
So what is it like looking across the pitch before a big game and seeing your sibling wearing the opposing team’s jersey?
“Truthfully, when I step on the field, I try to forget that Jamie’s my sister,” said Jenna.
“It’s really emotional for me to see my little sister, who I love and adore. We have a wonderful relationship. But when I step on the field, I have this competitive nature. All I want to do is win — and I know Jamie has that same DNA. She has that same competitive nature. All she wants to do is win.”
Jamie said she brings identical emotions to their matchups. The Shepherd sisters had played against each other prior to last season — but 2022 was different. So much was at stake.
“But I think it’s cool that Jenna and I can be such strong competitors — but once we're off the field, we still have that great relationship.”
Jenna is a defender. Jamie is a midfielder. So, inevitably, over the course of a UVU/BYU game, the sisters will find themselves challenging each other for the ball. “There have definitely been some collisions,” said Jamie, laughing.
Humor helps the Shepherd sisters soften the edge of their competition. But the UVU/BYU games are pretty rough on their parents, Jared and Julie Shepherd.
“They make my mom sick to her stomach,” said Jenna.
Added Jamie: “The games are harder for my parents than they are for us. Either way, it’s a losing situation for them.”
Candidly, Jenna admits it is much easier approaching her sister following a Wolverine win.
“I was pretty wrecked after that NCAA Tournament game,” she said. “I can usually call Jamie a day or two after a game and we can talk about it, but I was pretty vulnerable after the NCAA game. There was just so much on the line…. So it took me about a week to reconnect with her.”
But, Jenna added, that delayed “reconnection” validated the depth of their sisterhood.
“It was so apparent that our relationship was something that I would never want to lose over a soccer game.”
Jamie also remembers the feeling of being on the losing end of a UVU/BYU matchup with her big sister. “It was definitely hard,” she said. “But after a little bit of time, we are always able to realize what is most important.”
Individually, Jenna and Jamie gleaned several accolades in 2022.
Utah Valley University Jenna Shepherd Gremillion, #22, is a returned missionary and a two-time Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Her younger sister, Jamie Shepherd, plays at rival Brigham Young University. (Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics)
For the second time in her UVU career, Jenna was the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Defensive Player of the Year. Additionally, she made first-team all-conference for a third consecutive season. An MBA student with a 3.76 GPA, Jenna also received United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-America honors.
Brigham Young University midfielder Jamie Shepherd is All-American and the 2022 West Coast Conference Midfielder of the Year. Her older sister, Jenna Shepherd Gremillion, plays for crosstown rival Utah Valley University. (Photo courtesy of BYU Photo)
Younger sister Jamie was a second team All-American and the West Coast Conference’s Midfielder of the Year after helping the Cougars reach the NCAA’s Sweet 16 a year after playing in the NCAA Finals in 2021.
Sunday family dinners and soccer talk
No surprise, when the Shepherds gather together for their weekly Sunday family dinners, there is plenty of soccer talk.
“Jamie and I confide in one another,” said Jenna. “We are both in team leadership roles, so we try to learn from one another. We ask each other how we manage similar situations. We come from the same family, so we have similar values and goals. So getting Jamie’s input has been very valuable to me.”
While both Shepherd sisters are prepping for their final year of college soccer in 2023, Jenna is actually three years older than Jamie. That age gap prevented the two from playing much soccer together when they were growing up. When Jenna was a senior and Jamie was a freshman at Utah’s American Fork High School, Jenna was forced to watch their team from the sidelines while recovering from ACL injuries.
Jenna’s injuries during high school prompted much prayer, reflection and perspective. After redshirting her first season at UVU, she decided to step away from soccer for a period to serve full-time in the Yakima Washington Mission.
Missionary life is busy. But “Sister Shepherd” found opportunities to keep the soccer ball at her feet.
“I was lucky enough to serve in a lot of YSA wards that often had ‘sports nights’,” said Jenna. “My mission president was all for us fellowshipping with the new members and others in the YSA wards, so I played soccer a lot on Monday nights for family home evenings. I was very lucky.”
The 2017 Utah Gatorade High School Player of the Year, Jamie began playing at BYU in 2019. Because of Jenna's missionary service, the sisters' college careers have run somewhat parallel.
Not much good can be said about the COVID pandemic, but the shutdown did offer the Shepherd sisters unique opportunities to train together — along with their little sister, Josie, who is currently serving a mission in New Hampshire after playing her freshman season at BYU.
“We were able to go out and train and condition every day together,” said Jamie. “It was such an amazing time because we had never been able to have that kind of soccer connection together when we were growing up.”
Looking forward to the 2023 season — and beyond.
Both Jenna and Jamie are already counting down the days until the 2023 season begins.
“I’m just looking forward to doing my best and mentoring our new girls and leaving the UVU program, hopefully, better than when I arrived,” said Jenna. “I’m excited about more fun experiences and more wins on the pitch.”
Time will tell if Jenna continues her soccer career beyond the college game. Big decisions await. She will claim her MBA this summer and is excited about the professional opportunities her schooling provides. Jenna and her husband, John Gremillion, also want to start a family at some point.
Meanwhile, Jamie is excited for BYU’s maiden season in the Big 12 Conference — and she’s hoping for one final NCAA tournament run with the Cougars. Like her older sister, Jamie will likely have professional soccer opportunities. She is grateful to have another year to weigh her own options.
“Because,” she said, “at this moment, I’m not sure.”
Regardless of their decisions regarding pro soccer, both Shepherd sisters hope to stay linked to the sport in some capacity.
“It’s my dream that Jamie and my dad and I can one day start our own youth team and work with them and coach them,” said Jenna. “We would have a great time and that would allow us to stay connected to soccer.”