Twins Jacqueline and Dan Caverly inherited a love of volleyball from their parents, both of whom were avid players and coaches.
They also inherited one other trait that has helped them become two of the best defensive volleyball players in the province. It's not something you would normally equate with volleyball stardom.
"My parents are both smaller, my dad is five-nine and my mom is five-three," says Jacqueline. "Dan and I, throughout our high school and club careers, we were always the smaller kids. He managed to grow a bit at the end but we were always the smaller kids so we had to get by on playing defence. I think it's showing now."
It certainly is showing. The two Coquitlam natives are wrapping up their fourth years at Capilano University and are sharing an interesting distinction - both are No. 1 in their leagues in digs. Jacqueline set the pace with 456 digs - more than 100 ahead of her nearest rival. Dan, with 286 digs, was the only male to average more than three per game.
"She's always going to beat me," says Dan. "Their rallies are longer - that's my excuse."
"That's just cool, right?" Capilano men's coach Nathan Bennett said of seeing the same last name on top of the stats page in the two different leagues. "You can't script that stuff."
Women's head coach Cal Wohlford agrees. "Both of them lead out there with their playing abilities," he says. "Both Jackie and Dan are excellent at reading defensive plays and picking up the ball. Both cover the court extremely well."
Sibling stat comparing aside, the 22-year-old twins were huge parts of Capilano's run to last week's provincial championship tournament in Cranbrook.
Dan helped the No. 4-seeded Blues upset both the regular season champ Douglas College and second-place Vancouver Island University en route to capturing the B.C. title, and a berth to the nationals.
The Port Moody Secondary alumnus took away the PacWest Men's Player of the Week award after posting stellar numbers during the three-day tournament. In the semifinal victory over Douglas, he produced 16 digs and 24 kills, then contributed 12 digs, 14 kills, a block and two aces in the final.
Capilano's women's team didn't fare as well, getting bumped 3-1 in the semifinal by the University of the Fraser Valley.
While their stats are similar their roles are quite different. Dan benefitted from a growth spurt that pushed him to six-foot-one and allowed him to play power hitter. Jacqueline peaked at five-foot-three and at libero, the defensive specialist position.
Without any duties at the net, Jacqueline focuses solely on defence and coach Wohlford says their system is set up to give her all that she can handle.
"We force hitters to hit the ball to her and let her dig it up," he says. "It's tough to beat her. A lot of teams now are starting to hit away from her... She covers [the] court very well but most important is her passion. She loves to win. She's a competitor through and through and she just loves to win."
Jacqueline says she loves to see big hitters winding up. "Sometimes you know you're in the perfect spot and you know it's coming right at you," she says.
"That's when all the volleyball players think, 'Yes!'"
Dan's got the same desire to have volleyballs blasted at him. "I just want it so bad," he says.
Dan leads a strong defensive crew that has three players - the others are Alex Pappas and Port Moody native Ben Ricketts - in the top five in the league in digs per game average.
"There's nine metres by nine metres on your side but there's a hell of a lot of room up top and that's where [Dan] likes to dig the ball and that helps us immensely," said Bennett. "Often people panic, and as soon as you panic you tense up and then the ball will go into the stands or off to the side. But Dan's really calm and collected, he does a good job on that."
He's also a fearsome hitter, with a 4.01 kills per game average ranking him second overall.
In the final game of the regular season the Blues foreshadowed the provincials with an upset of the Royals, the then-No. 1-ranked team in Canada. Dan played a large role, blasting back-row spikes and coming up with a huge solo block in the dying moments of the fifth set.
Even with that offensive and defensive showing, coach Bennett anticipated a huge performance from the 21-year-old.
"I think everybody thinks they've seen all he can give but I've seen him now for a full season and there's more in the tank from Dan and I'm hoping at provincials we're able to see the real Dan Caverly."
And that's exactly what the opposition saw.
- Andy Prest is the sports editor at the North Shore News, a sister publication of The NOW.