Three sets of Dowagiac siblings bond on the volleyball court

Published 1:00 pm Monday, March 1, 2021

Veteran Dowagiac volleyball coach Tony Hooley has seen a lot of things over his career.

He has coached an entire family of girls during one portion of his career. But until 2020, Hooley had never coached three sets of sisters simultaneously, including a set of twins.

While having sisters on a team is nothing new, having nearly half your squad made up of siblings can be challenging. However, according to twins Emma and Sarah Allen, sisters Taylor and Caleigh Wimberley, and Anna and Abbey Dobberstein, it has been a great experience getting to play with their sibling.

During the pandemic, when teams were not allowed to participate in practices together until early fall, having a sibling at home who played the same sport allowed them to stay prepared for that moment when sports resumed.

Hooley has been fortunate that all of them are the type of player that a coach would want on this team.

“All six of them are such high-character young ladies,” he said. “That says a lot for the families too. They are respectful, they work hard, and that is that half the team is from them.”

Hooley said he was also fortunate enough that unlike some sisters, who tend to pick at each other or be critical, all of these sisters get along.

“They all get along great together,” he said. “This team, in general, has been very low drama and has great chemistry. A lot of that is probably because of that nucleus of those six girls.”

The Allen twins

When you look at Emma, who is older than by one minute, and Sarah from a distance, they are hard to tell apart. However, Emma is also about an inch taller than Sarah, according to the Dowagiac volleyball roster.

But the closer you get to them, the easier it is to tell the difference. Fortunately for Hooley, that has made him less likely to confuse who he is talking to.

Emma and Sarah say that some of the myths associated with twins are just that myths. Think like thinking each other’s thoughts or feeling each other’s pain just has not been a part of their growing up.

“I tried to say that once, but it didn’t work,” Emma said. “Being a triplet is not as interesting as people think. It is just like having another sibling. You really don’t think about it as much.”

The Allens are part of triplets, with their brother being the oldest.

The two did admit that being twins and having played on the same teams together throughout the years, there is a chemistry that they have built up.

“There is a lot of competition,” Sarah said.

Both claimed that they are the better player, then looked at each other and laughed.

The Allens have been fortunate to have played together all their athletic careers. They have never been separated onto different teams, something that suits them both just fine.

“It is frustrating at times,” Emma said.

“We will get mad at each other at times,” Sarah added.

On the flip side, they have picked up some cool monikers along the way, like “Sister Power” and the “Twin Towers.”

The two are not shy about analyzing each other’s performances on the court. When asked about how often they are critical of one another, they chimed with “all the time.”

It is not always easy for them to watch when the other gets on the court and into the competition, while the other has to sit.

“I think we cheer for each other, but it depends on the day,” Sarah said.

“If Sarah were to mess something up, I would be, like ‘come on bro.’ Emma added”

Emma and Sarah said that Hooley does not treat either player special. In fact, he treats all of his players the same.

“I think he just treats us like any other player,” Sarah said.

When asked if he ever gets them confused, both answered with a quick “yes.”

Being together during the COVID-19 shutdown of sports was both a positive and a negative.

“It was good at some points,” Emma said. “But, then at other times, I was like, ‘I need my own time.’”

The Wimberley sisters

Unlike the Allens, the Wimberleys are separated by two years, with Taylor being a junior and Caleigh a sophomore.

Being members of the Dowagiac varsity volleyball team meant, for the first time, they played on the same team. For them, it was a plus, especially during a year when teams were not allowed to practice together for several months.

“I like it. It helps a lot with practices,” Taylor said. “It is not bad because we do not fight too much.”

Playing the same sports allows the Wimberleys to be coaches for each other, as well as the coaching they get from Hooley and his staff.

“It helps us with motivation, too,” Caleigh said. “They will push you to do better because they can see something that will help you out.”

“It is always nice to have someone to come back to the house with and chit chat about what went on, and what we need to change,” Taylor added.

The two agreed having each other during the COVID shutdown kept them focused and getting ready for the upcoming season. However, there were times where a little space would have been nice, too.

“We have our days where we fight, but the next day it is all better,” Caleigh said. “It will be like we fight, then we act like we didn’t fight. That is how it goes.”

Although the coaches never mix up their names, occasionally, the announcers at matches get the two confused. But that does not really bother them.

Taylor and Caleigh have already thought about the day when they will not be on the same team.

“I am really close with all her friends,” Caleigh said. “My friends are her friends. So, we are all really tight in the one group. We always talk about when they leave; I am going to be so sad.”

Taylor will be attending Southwestern Michigan College following her senior year, which will allow them all to remain close for at least a while longer.

The best part of playing sports together for the pair?

“The car rides home are fun,” Taylor said.

“Just having someone to come and talk to is nice,” Caleigh added.

The Dobberstein sisters

Of the three sets of sisters, Anna and Abbey Dobberstein are the farthest apart when it comes to age.

Anna is a senior, while Abbey is a freshman. As one might imagine, being separated by that much time, playing on the same team is new to the Dobbersteins, whose father is an assistant coach for the Chieftains.

“It is especially nice for me because it is my last year playing this sport,” Anna said about playing with her sister. “I get to play her favorite sport for her first year on varsity.”

Abbey was looking forward to finally getting a chance to compete on a team with her sibling.

“It is nice because I can talk to her about stuff,” Abbey said. “Especially since I was the only freshman, it was nice having a senior to be able to talk to.”

Abbey said she has looked up to Anna, and watched what she has done, especially in her favorite softball sport, to get ready to play.

“Seeing her work hard every day, go to weight room and things like that inspires me,” Abbey said.

The two are not afraid to voice their opinions on the other one’s play.

“Sometimes we are each other’s biggest critics,” Anna said. “That is just because we just want to push each other to be the best that we both can be.”

And the best part of playing with a sister?

“I get to bully her because she is a freshman,” Anna said.

“We get food sometimes after practice,” Abbey added about the team dinners.

Having a father on the coaching staff adds a unique element as well.

“There are some very long talks after practice,” Anna said.

Anna and Abbey agreed with the Allens and Wimberleys that it was good to have someone they could practice with during the shutdown.

“We could at least get out and play pepper because we could not get in the gym,” Abbey said.

Unlike the other sisters, Anna and Abbey had to come to grips with them no longer playing on the same team once the volleyball season ended for the Chieftains in October.

“Every time I think about my last game, I get sad,” Anna said. “It will be bittersweet.”