Pairs of aces | AspenTimes.com

Pairs of aces

Nate Peterson

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

OK, so she was wrong. Bailey Holmes can admit that.The unquestioned senior leader of Basalt’s volleyball team, Holmes said she wasn’t at all looking forward to playing with her sophomore sister, Shelby, before this season.”We didn’t get along well last year,” said Bailey. “It gets a little annoying just having your family there all the time. You get enough of her at home and now she has to go to school with you and be on the same team as you. I sometimes took my frustrations out on her.”Something funny happened this season, however, on the way to an 18-1 record and a 3A Western Slope crown. Basalt came together as a team, and Bailey and Shelby – whose two older sisters also played for the Longhorns – came to appreciate each other’s presence on the floor.No, it was more than that, Bailey said. They came to rely on each other. All those years growing up together equated to a savvy court sense – a feel for where the other was going to be when things got tense. “She’s always the one I go to if there’s a bad pass,” said Bailey, a dominant outside hitter. “I’ll set her in the back row because I’m in the front row. I can tell where she is and can tell if she’s ready or she’s not ready.”It’s a sweet story. Just don’t expect the two to be the first to hug each other if Basalt – whose league title already assures a regional berth out of this weekend’s district tournament in Grand Junction – advances to the 3A state finals. The two still snipe at each other nearly every day in practice, sometimes so much that Dave Drozd feels as if he’s a baby sitter, not the team’s head coach.

The two sisters who get along like best friends? That’s Basalt’s other senior-sophomore sibling combo of Elisabeth and Heather Nemiec, Drozd said.”I’d say that the Nemiecs really don’t push each other as much,” Drozd said. “They just get along together. The Holmeses, they’re so competitive on the inside. They want to do better than the other sister, but as far as saying it out loud in practice, they’ll never do it. They’re just always trying to one-up each other.”Which is fine with Drozd. The family dynamics work well for both pairs of sisters in terms of all four fulfilling their roles on the team, he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he said. “There’s a lot of little bickering and stuff, but for the most part it’s helped us. They know each other so well off the court that they play well together, so it’s kind of been a blessing in disguise.”Elisabeth, or “Lis” as her teammates call her, feels blessed to have the opportunity to play with her only sister. After spot minutes last fall, Heather has seen increased playing time this season at middle blocker and has benefited – like all the Longhorns’ front-line players – from Elisabeth’s well-placed sets. “I’m definitely going to miss her next year when I go to college,” said Elisabeth, the Longhorns’ assists leader. “I think it’s going to be cool memories to have for the rest of our lives.””She gives me advice all the time on what to do just because she has more experience,” Heather added. “She never yells, she just talks to me and tells me what I need to do.”

If Drozd ever needs to talk someone else about coaching siblings, he doesn’t have to look far. Aspen’s varsity volleyball team has also had a stellar season and coach Matt Bergdahl will be the first to admit that part of that is because of the play of sisters Kyla and Elissa Walter. The Skiers (14-5, 10-4 3A Western Slope) enter the district tournament today in Grand Junction with an excellent chance of advancing to the regionals. Aspen upset league runner-up Gunnison (17-2, 12-2) last Friday and played Basalt tough in two regular season meetings.Elissa, a sophomore middle blocker, isn’t ready for the Skiers’ season to end, she said. She wants to keep playing with Kyla – a senior right-side hitter – for as long as possible, hopefully past this weekend.”We’re all excited about districts,” she said. “We’re going to try our hardest and hopefully it’ll be a great tournament. The expectation is to make it to regionals.”As for an on-court “sister” sense, Elissa admitted that there may be such a thing, although it’s not terribly pronounced with her and Kyla. “I wouldn’t say that [playing with your sister] is necessarily different than playing with any other teammates,” she said. “I work together with Kyla just the same as I work with the rest of the team…. If anything, I’ve just been watching Kyla play volleyball since she first started and just because I’ve watched her play I understand how she moves. We play very well together.”The Nemiecs both said their on-court sense is the exact opposite of the Holmes. They tend to forget where each other is on the court at times and often run into each other, Elisabeth said – a remark that causes both sisters to laugh.”We think alike,” Heather said. “We both go places at the same time and go for balls at the same time, but we’re not really aware of each other.”

“I think we just have the same mindset that we want the ball,” Elisabeth added. “It’s one of those thing where we want to make the play. We want to help and do the best we can for the team.”

All three sets of sisters admitted that volleyball inevitably follows them home after practice and games. “Most of our family conversations right now are about volleyball,” Elisabeth said. “At the dinner table it’s like volleyball, volleyball, volleyball.”Shelby Holmes said sometimes its gets to be too much at her household. Her mom, Erin, has helped out coaching the Longhorns all the way back to when her oldest sister, Jessica, 23, was playing and is always dishing out pointers, she said.”I’ve been around it all my life, so that’s what made me want to play,” she said. “It used to be that I always got mad when [my mom and my older sisters] always talked about it at dinner.”Adds Bailey: “Our mom will actually call us downstairs on our cell phones from upstairs and tell us volleyball is on TV. She’ll be like, ‘Turn on channel 27, girls.'”Like her sister, Bailey admits that sometimes she needs time to herself when she’s at home – just to get away from her coach and her teammate who share her same last name.How many hours in the day can you spend with your family members?She admits, however, that next year when she is a freshman at the University of Colorado she’ll likely miss the bonds that come with being on a team with members of her family.If anything, her little sister pushed her to be the best she could be this season. Hopefully that motivation will be enough to get the Longhorns all the way to center court at the Denver Coliseum, she said.”She helps me a lot because I don’t want my little sister to be better than me,” she said. “I’ve just got to try extra hard…. She’s a good player. She’s better than me at putting the ball down, even though she’s shorter.””But,” Bailey adds lastly, “I’m definitely smarter than her on the floor. I know where the ball is going to be hit because I’ve been playing longer.”Spoken like an older sister.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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