When Bree Davis was a setter for the Flagstaff Eagles, she played with the Leffel sisters, Hailey and Courtney.
But she still had no idea what to expect when it came to coaching the sister act of Dana and Brooke Parker.
“Having them be so completely different was kind of confusing right away because you expect Brooke to be just like Dana, but she’s not,” said Davis, who in her first season at the helm of the Coconino Panthers helped lead the team to a 13-4 regular-season record and first-round state tournament appearance as the No. 9-ranked team.
While Dana filled the team's role of an experienced senior with a killer instinct, Brooke provided the team a young, light-hearted mood.
“I really like how they are opposites," said sophomore Mireya Cabrera, who just missed the window of time to play at the varsity level with her older sister, Michayla, by one season. "It’s good to have two people who want to be in control, but in different ways. They know how to run the court, especially together because they have a good balance.”
Despite having never before played together -- not even through their years competing on clubs -- it didn't take long for Dana, the team's ace outside hitter, and Brooke, the freshman setter who earned the starting role and went on to tally a total of 1,090 assists, to get the offense rolling.
“As a freshman, there are not a lot of setters that are doing that at her age,” Davis said of Brooke, who made the Grand Canyon Region All-Region First Team.
The Panthers finished up at 28-15 when counting tournament matches, and Dana ended the season with 532 kills, landing her with the fourth-most executions of the ball in the state. Both sisters were a force at the service line, where they combined for 117 of Coconino's 320 aces, with Dana notching the second-most on the team at 61 and Brooke tallying the third-most with 56.
“It’s just been really special, there are not words that can really describe it," Dana said. "I just really loved playing with her all year.”
The combination helped Dana have her best season of her four-year career with the Panthers. She finished the year with 4.5 kills per set, her highest of all four years, and hit .258, an average shadowed only by last year's .342 clip.
The two would critique each other, and both benefited from having someone to talk with about volleyball outside of the lines and practices.
“That would help us for the next match, knowing what we need to get better at,” Brooke said.
The next level, be it on sand instead of court, now awaits Dana, who is signed to play beach volleyball with the University of Arizona Wildcats.
In her freshman varsity year, Dana had posted 100 kills on a .132 average with just 1.3 kills per set. She just kept getting better, whether she was outdoors or indoors.
Brooke hopes to leave her own mark at the school, motivated by the impact her sister had on the program.
“It’s meant a lot because over the years, once Dana made varsity, it became my goal, so I’ve always thought about playing with her because I haven’t really gotten to," Brooke said. "I watched her for so many years and looked up to her, so it’s really cool to be playing at the same level as her. I think it means a lot to experience that with her.”
Davis, who gets Brooke for three more seasons, saw how Dana passed on the tools it takes to win.
“She does have that older role model who has clearly done something right for the last couple years – she’s going to get her college paid for – so to look up to that and to follow that I think is really cool,” Davis said.
Their sibling competitiveness made them better players, the sisters said. Dana said she could give her sister more criticism, but added that it was always rewarding playing with a sister who could "do something silly, and just lighten the mood." The connection helped pave the way to Dana being named region offensive player of the year.
With Dana set to play beach in the spring for her final varsity year, maybe the two will team up again for more special moments.