Sisters, sets, matches; Siblings lead Oxbridge, Benjamin volleyball

Volleyball’s sister act has been playing to rave reviews at Oxbridge Academy and Benjamin this season.

Four sets of sisters have taken the court for the ThunderWolves and Bucs — two on each team — while their coaches also are sisters.

All have played a big role in carrying their teams to the top seed in this week’s district tournaments. Oxbridge is No. 1 in District 12-5A, and Benjamin is No. 1 in District 5-4A.

Oxbridge Academy senior outside hitter Riley Nieporte and her younger sister, Libby, are among the area’s leaders in kills. So are Benjamin junior middle hitter Katy Blain and her younger sister, Ellie.

Benjamin junior middle hitter Emma Lange has recorded more than two dozen blocks for the Bucs this season, while her younger sister, middle hitter Lauren, is expected to play a key role in the postseason.

And the Weber sisters of Oxbridge — senior defensive specialist Maddie and sophomore defensive specialist Morgan — have helped carry the ThunderWolves to a 14-6 record and season-long top 10 ranking.

They, along with Clarke and Oxbridge coach Katie George, have excelled with a big push from their on- (and off) court sisters.

“I love playing with her,” Riley Neiporte said of Libby, a freshman outside hitter. “It’s encouraging. We talk to each other, look each other up. She makes me play better. She encourages me, and I think I do the same with her. It’s fun.”

“It’s kind of cool having my sister there,” Katy Blain said of Ellie, a freshman outside hitter. “If one of us gets a point, we can look to each other and celebrate together.”

Clarke and George, both former volleyball players, understand that dynamic perfectly. Though the two rarely played together growing up — George is four years older — they have been each other’s biggest fans throughout their playing careers, and now as coaches.

Clarke has coached at Benjamin for seven years, and George has been at Oxbridge for five.

“Any time I call with a question, or we’re playing a certain team, I can call her and ask her, ‘Have you played them? Have you heard about them?’” said George, who opposes her sister once a season when the ThunderWolves play the Bucs.

“We bounce stuff off each other. I know if I have practice one night, and then I’ll come to watch her game. I like cheering for them and the kids, and supporting her. It’s a family affair. We enjoy it.”

The players do too, though sometimes a little sisterly conflict creeps in.

“It’s definitely fun having someone you can count on with you,” Maddie Weber said. “But it’s also kind of tricky. I catch myself wanting to not necessarily coach her, but give her tips that I shouldn’t as a teammate, but as a sister. It’s a complicated relationship.”

Clarke agrees.

“They push each other the hardest, and then I think they give each other the hardest time, too,” she said of her players. “It’s par for the course.”

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