By Drew Terhall
VERSAILLES — All across high school sports, there are teams that feature siblings. Twins, triplets or siblings close in age get to play the sport they love together. For Versailles volleyball, there’s a whole bunch of siblings within their program.
The Lady Tigers feature five sets of siblings from grades 9-12. Head coach Liz McNeilan said she can tell who is related to who during practices.
“Mannerisms, personalities and everything. You get surprised sometimes like, ‘Man, they’re not the same at all’ but for the most part you can tell,” McNeilan said.
Some of the sisters have played together since they were in the fourth or fifth grade. Senior Brynn Briscoe and junior Brooke Briscoe have played together since their club days.
To them, playing volleyball together means spending more time together.
“There’s that saying, ‘Your sister is like your built-in best friend,’ so it’s more time with your best friend,” Brynn said.
This is a newer experience for some of the other sisters. Senior Tessa Stammen and sophomore Sarah Stammen said they have played together for about two years. It’s an experience that has each sister learning more things about the other.
“It’s fun because we know each other as sisters and then we get to know each other better as teammates,” Tessa said.
It’s natural for teammates to be there to support and help each other. Each player has their own way to pick up their teammates when they’re down or celebrate when they succeed. For the siblings, they take this to an extreme.
Senior Hailey Porter and her sister, freshman Ashlyn Porter, are playing and practicing together at a high school level for the first time.
Hailey said she’s her sister’s biggest supporter and her biggest critic. All of the sisters find it helpful to have someone at home to talk to and to practice with away from the school.
“They know what you did in practice and how you can fix it and what you can do better,” senior Kirsten Bomholt said.
It’s also helpful after game days as well. Kirsten and her sisters, junior Cassie and freshman Emma, all have a chance to talk about practice at home. Cassie said her and Kirsten talk for about 15 minutes after games about what they did during the match.
The summer work has also been a great experience for the sisters. Hailey Porter said her aunt and uncle have a sand volleyball court in their backyard that she and her sister use to play together. Ashlyn said her favorite part of being in the program with her sister has been going through the summer workouts together.
McNeilan said the seniors are the ones who set the standard for the program. With a majority of the sisters being seniors, they can continue showing the younger siblings what the program is about at home with positive criticism.
“To go home and have those conversations about that, I think is really cool. They turn around and the next day they bring it. They want to get everybody better, their sisters better and the team better,” McNeilan said. “I think building that team chemistry from such a strong bond of five sets of sisters is huge for our program.”
The juniors help with this as well. Junior Heidi Stammen enjoys working with her freshman sister, Elli Stammen. Heidi said she likes working on her and Elli’s skills together at home and having someone be there for her if she has a bad day or be there for Elli if she has a bad day.
The support also bleeds into gameday. McNeilan said the older siblings will be celebrating in the hallway as they watch their sister make a play during a junior varsity game.
Only a few of the sisters have a chance to play together. Kirsten and Cassie Bomholt both play on the front line during most of the match. Brynn and Brooke Briscoe both have key roles on the team as setters and get to show off their connection on the floor in other roles.
There will be four sisters graduating after this year. Their time playing with their sister(s) will come to an end soon as playoffs are just around the corner.
Hailey Porter said she will miss seeing Ashlyn have the same experience as she did while playing for Versailles.
For Ashlyn, she’s going to miss having her number one supporter around.
“I’m going to miss having her around as someone to talk to and her encouragement,” Ashlyn said.
For some, they’re going to miss their biggest critic. Cassie and Emma Bomholt said they will miss Kirsten’s honesty about their performance on the court.
“If I have an awful practice, I know as soon as I walk out of the gym she makes sure I know,” Cassie said.
“I’m going to miss her critiquing me every time I mess up,” Emma said.
McNeilan said it’s been a blast to see the sisters interact during practices and be there for each other. It has made this season a little bit more special for her and the team.
“What we see in the gym as coaches is the daily successes, like figuring out how to make that corner or how to nail down a serve that’s specific. When they get it, it’s the fist pump in the air during practice. When we take a water break and they’re all talking. Seeing that kind of stuff is very rewarding to me as a coach,” McNeilan said.
Versailles will have a chance to prolong this experience during the playoffs. They will have a chance to create new memories with their siblings that will last forever.
These family experiences aren’t just specific to the sister pairings. The family feeling is extended out to the whole team.
“Even people that aren’t siblings, we’re all a family. It’s nice to have that connection with everyone,” Heidi Stammen said.
Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]