D’Ancona Twins: serving up success for the upcoming season

Daniela Laborinho Schwartz

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Being a twin has its difficulties: you’re commonly misnamed, commonly stared at for determining differences and commonly paired together as one person. But for seniors Desi and Nique D’Ancona, being twins has only helped them to become a daunting duo on the girls’ varsity volleyball team, utilizing their unique skillsets to improve each other’s talent.

“As a twin you always get those questions like who is better at volleyball or who is better at this or that, but it’s not really like that,” Nique said. “We work together as one because we each have certain strengths.”

Varsity captains Nique and Desi D’Ancona

The D’Ancona twins couldn’t be more different in what they bring to the table. While Desi takes the majority of the swings as the outside hitter. Nique leads the defense as a libero. (Libero is a specialized defensive position in indoor volleyball and often responsible for digging balls out of reach of other players. Not allowed to hit or block any ball that is above the net, liberos are often diving to keep plays alive).

“[Nique] is going to get it [even if] she has to dive on the floor and there’s no chance of getting it,” senior teammate Alex Lefebure said. “Desi is super reliable. If you just need her to get the ball, she’s going to step in and set. Nique is also reliable, but she goes after the most insane balls and somehow gets them up every time.”

Last season, Nique was an MCAL All League honorable mention. Out of 119 sets played, her numbers include 568 digs and 583 served receptions, according to MaxPreps.

Beginning their volleyball career in eighth grade, later than most varsity players, the competition between the twins pushed them to learn the game quickly, according to Nique. Sophomore year, they were two of three girls to make the varsity squad.

Senior Nique D’Ancona serves the ball during practice.

Now seniors, the D’Ancona twins were voted captains of the varsity team by their teammates and are considered by the Marin Independent Journal to be among the top returning Redwood varsity volleyball players, along with juniors Britney Klein, Ella Spaethling and sophomore Lucy Walsh.

“Voted captains by the team shows that they are very capable of taking on leadership roles, and being an example for the other girls,” coach Tahan Minakov said. “They both have a high volleyball IQ, meaning they understand the game very well and are very competitive in practice, and practice how they would play in a game.”

According to Desi, she and Nique both are hoping to not only be role models but also friends with their teammates. Moving from Sonoma freshman year, Nique and Desi didn’t go to middle school or play on club teams with any of the current Redwood players. As a result, team unity is especially important to them.

“It’s weird. You feel like kind of an outcast, all of these girls have been playing with each other since they were 11 and they all know each other. It’s really cool to be going through an experience of feeling like we didn’t have teammates that liked us, to them ending up voting for us to be their captains,”  Desi said.

When Redwood girls’ volleyball isn’t in season, the twins’ volleyball career doesn’t stop. During the offseason, the two play for Golden Gate Beach Volleyball Club. While playing doubles on the beach, it is more common that their identical features confuse opponents.

The twins sit with each other during the end of practice.

“Doubles is fun because we can wear the same exact thing. That whole point is to try and find that one player that is the weakest, but they can’t really decide because we look exactly the same.” Desi said.

Their talent in both beach and indoor volleyball has also taken them across the world. Last summer, Absolute Volleyball coach Gayle Stammer recruited Nique and Desi and other players to compete in the Global Challenge, a volleyball tournament in Croatia between youth and junior national teams ranging from Slovenia to China. The two stayed an additional week in Italy to train with professional Italian beach volleyball players.

Nique said that being able to play against girls from other countries and getting that variety of play made her talent and confidence in the Redwood season increase.

Looking ahead, both of the twins are planning to play volleyball in college. According to Nique, their goal is to play Division 1, but as of now they don’t know what school they will attend. They are especially interested in continuing beach volleyball together, according to Minakov.

“I think that wherever they end up will be a lucky school because they have so much to add to the team because they know how to play so well together.” Minakov said.