WHEATON – Twin sisters Kamryn and Laney Malloy bantered about St. Francis girls volleyball before bed on most nights during the regular season.
Kamryn shared the latest from the varsity – where she has shuttled around the front row throughout her freshman year – while Laney, usually a setter, dished on the sophomore team.
"We'd get the best of both," Laney Malloy said.
August tryouts separated the Malloys in some manner, but they managed to stay connected anyway. When last month's season-ending labrum injury to outside hitter Maddie Haggerty created a void, Laney Malloy stepped in. Now she'll be supporting her sister and the Spartans at this weekend's Class 3A state meet in Normal as a teammate, not just a member of the student section.
The Malloys have started throughout a postseason that has seen the Spartans (37-3) seemingly gain steam by the round, including a 25-10, 25-15 thrashing of Chicago Christian in Saturday's Joliet Catholic Supersectional.
Kamryn Malloy, listed at 5-foot-11 – two inches shorter than her sister – primarily plays outside hitter. Laney Malloy has moved to right-side or middle as a blocking component to the team's mix.
"It's been natural. We all love both of them," junior middle hitter Mary Boken said. "Laney was a nice addition to the team."
That's a common sentiment among a homey program seeking its second straight title in its 18th state tournament appearance.
Legendary coach Peg Kopec believes the Malloys are her first set of twins since she took the reins in 1974, but garden variety siblings have been quite common. Molly Haggerty, the younger sister of the Nebraska-bound Maddie Haggerty, is a sophomore outside hitter who leads the team with 319 kills.
Four other players – Boken, Sam Dubiel, Anna Melka and Natalie Murison – have had sisters in the program.
"That's a lot," Kopec said. "People talk about recruiting. This is a family business here, you know. We kind of look at volleyball as being family, so it kind of aids and abets that theory."
The Malloys' mother, Maia, was her girls' biggest enabler. A former collegiate player at Washington State, she introduced her daughters to volleyball in fourth grade and coached them from fifth to eighth grade at St. Walter Catholic School in Roselle.
Entering the state tournament, Kamryn Malloy has 135 kills and 49 blocks. Laney Malloy has seven kills and nine blocks in limited duty.
The twins began playing club ball for Aurora-based Sports Performance as seventh-graders. Last fall, with a hunch they'd be attending St. Francis the following year, they watched the Spartans' Glenbard South Sectional final match against Joliet Catholic.
St. Francis won, 25-15, 24-26, 30-28. Good times have hardly subsided.
"I've really had such a great experience. I know all these girls are older and they have more experience, but they really just welcomed me in," Kamryn Malloy said. "When I didn't know what to do, they would just explain it like it was never a problem."
Her twin, naturally, seconds the emotion.
"At first it was kind of intimidating when I moved up, but they've been very nice in showing me different drills and stuff, and so they've been really helpful," she said.
Just two victories from the program's 10th state title, the Spartans are glad to extend a hand. Especially to those who lend theirs back.