#STINGDAILY: Anything You Can Do...

Sep 8, 2013

Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Teegan and Annika Van Gunst will battle over anything.

Anything.

The twin sisters from Fayetteville, Ga., were born one minute apart and probably even battled over who’d come out first.

“Oh, we’re extremely competitive,” said Annika, who was the first out, she estimated, by about a minute. “In everything we do we’re competitive. If we have the same class we ask each other what grade the other got on exams and stuff. In every aspect of life we like to compare, compare ourselves and see who ends up on top.”

“We are [competitive] in every little thing,” agreed Teegan. “Who is playing, what we’re wearing, who looks better, whatever, silly stuff like that. That is a big part of who we are, our relationship, I guess you could call it. But it’s sisterly. It’s nothing negative. It’s just making each other better the best as we can.”

After leading Whitewater High School to a pair of 5A state championships and four region championships, the duo, Teegan, an outside hitter, and Annika, a middle blocker, set their sights on Georgia Tech and getting the program they watched as kids back to the NCAA Tournament. It wasn’t an easy choice, as both also played soccer, leading Whitewater to a pair of Regional championships, and considered playing both collegiately.

“It was a tough decision,” admitted Teegan, the 2012 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year, after recording 504 kills, 40 service aces, 406 digs, 43.5 blocks in 113 matches (Annika had 476 kills, 60 service aces, 298 digs and 102.5 blocks in 120 matches as a senior). “We wanted to play soccer and we wanted to play volleyball. Annika was more leaning toward soccer. After I committed to Georgia Tech it was a lot of conversation talking about what we wanted to do. Did we really want to split up? Did we really want to stay together? We just decided that the best thing for us and what we really wanted to do was stay together. So we’re here.”

They’ve let everyone know it, too. The twins are part of a freshman class of five, which came into training camp swinging and hasn’t stopped. They’re contributing, already, although there is a learning curve.

“It’s definitely a faster game than what I’m used to,” Teegan said. “Blocking-wise and hitting-wise you have to be a lot smarter because everyone is so much bigger and taller. You have to be able to be smart on the court because everyone plays at such a high level.”

In training camp, the sisters learned about how each other played at a high level, as, at the end of training camp, they found themselves on opposite teams in the Gold and White Scrimmage. Teegan played for Gold, Annika for White.

“That was actually new,” said Annika, with a laugh. “The only time we played against each other was in practice because coaches liked to split us up, keep the twins on opposite teams. So, besides in practice, it was the first time playing against her. But it was cool.”

“It was kind of weird at first, ‘Okay, I’m playing my sister,'” Teegan added. “But once you get into the heat of the moment it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the court. You have to take care of your business on your side of the court. Subconsciously, you always know that she’s over there and you want to beat her. It’s a little motivation I guess.”

A little motivation but not something the younger Van Gunst would overtly hold over big sis.

“Not too much,” she said. “It was just friendly competition…but it’s always nice to win.”

Nice to win, like Annika winning the race to arrive. Not that she would hold that extra minute over Teegan…right?

“Of course I do,” she said. “Just like any sibling would do.”

Oh, the joy of sibling rivalry.

It’s a joy that is something new for Head Coach Tonya Johnson, but, she admits is something she’s enjoying.

“I’ve never coached twins before. That’s a new one for all of us, actually, and it’s been pretty fun,” Johnson said. “They’re blue-collar, competitive kids. Everything that they do they go hard with it. They’re just natural volleyball players. They make plays and they just get after it. They complement each other and they bring some special things to this team.”

Teegan has brought tremendous power-hitting. She’s starting on the outside and has already become a dependable option. She had double-digit kills in each of her first two matches, then, over the weekend in Albuquerque, blasted 23 kills, tying for the team lead against Idaho State (6) and ranking second on the team against UC Riverside (9). She also showed development on the defensive end, recording 15 digs over her final two matches at the Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic, including a career-best eight against Riverside, as she just missed her first double-double.

Not to be outdone, Annika also started to come on in Albuquerque, recording a career-best three kills in the match against Riverside.

Johnson’s glad to see the Van Gunsts establishing an identity on the court — as glad as she is to be learning the sisters’ identity, period.

“I’m able to somewhat tell them apart now,” Johnson said, with a laugh. “It’s been great having them in our gym and seeing how versatile they are. They just play the game and are pretty natural at it.”

With so much ahead over the next four years, the Van Gunsts are looking forward to going through every day, together.

“It’s a lot easier because it’s kind of like a piece of home being brought with you,” said Teegan. “Obviously, we’re not very far from home but a lot of people get homesick and it’s like the attachment that you have with you all the time. It’s just comforting to know that your best friend is always there, dealing with everything that you are.” 

“We are roommates, so that’s cool,” said Annika. “It makes the transition smoother. We’re so close, being twins and not just sisters, that it’s nice to have someone there with you through all your new processes. Everything is new between the two of us, so we can talk it out or just be there for each other all the time.”

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