TWINS Jacqueline and Dan Caverly inherited a love of volleyball from their parents, both of whom were avid players and coaches.
They also inherited one other trait that has helped them become two of the best defensive volleyball players in the province. It's not something you would normally equate with volleyball stardom.
"My parents are both smaller, my dad is five-nine and my mom is five-three," says Jacqueline. "Dan and I, throughout our high school and club careers, we were always the smaller kids. He managed to grow a bit at the end but we were always the smaller kids so we had to get by on playing defence. I think it's showing now."
It certainly is showing. The two Coquitlam natives are now wrapping up their fourth years at Capilano University and are sharing an interesting distinction - both are No. 1 in their leagues in digs. Jacqueline is ahead by a long shot, her 424 digs topping the next highest total by 99 heading into the final matches of the regular season last weekend. Dan isn't quite as dominant with his 259 total digs but at 3.24 per game he's the only male player to average more than three per game.
"She's always going to beat me," says Dan. "Their rallies are longer - that's my excuse."
Sibling stat comparing aside, the twins are both key players for their teams and will both play huge parts in deciding how far the Blues go at this weekend's provincial championship tournament which starts tomorrow at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.
"That's just cool, right?" men's coach Nathan Bennett said of seeing the same last name on top of the stats page in the two different leagues. "You can't script that stuff."
Women's head coach Cal Wohlford agrees. "Both of them lead out there with their playing abilities," he says. "Both Jackie and Dan are excellent at reading defensive plays and picking up the ball. Both cover the court extremely well."
While their stats are similar their roles are actually quite different. Dan eventually got a growth spurt that pushed him to six feet and allowed him to play power hitter. Jacqueline, meanwhile, stayed at five-foot-three so she plays libero, the defensive specialist position. Without any duties at the net, Jacqueline focuses solely on defence and coach Wohlford says their system is set up to give her all that she can handle.
"We force hitters to hit the ball to her and let her dig it up," he says. "It's tough to beat her. A lot of teams now are starting to hit away from her. . . . She covers court very well but most important is her passion. She loves to win. She's a competitor through and through and she just loves to win."
Jacqueline says she loves to see big hitters winding up. "Sometimes you know you're in the perfect spot and you know it's coming right at you," she says. "That's when all the volleyball players think, 'Yes!'"
Dan's got the same desire to have volleyballs blasted at him. "I just want it so bad," he says, adding that he doesn't think that every player out there has that same love. "I definitely get frustrated when they hit at someone else and they don't dig it."
Dan isn't the focus of the team's defence but he still leads a strong defensive crew that has three players - the other two are Alex Pappas and Ben Ricketts - in the top five in the league in digs per game average.
"Dan's calm, he's able to react quick and he understands the game," says Bennett. "There's nine metres by nine metres on your side but there's a hell of a lot of room up top and that's where he likes to dig the ball and that helps us immensely. Often people panic, and as soon as you panic you tense up and then the ball will go into the stands or off to the side. But Dan's really calm and collected, he does a good job on that."
Dan also has become a fearsome hitter in the Pacwest league, his 4.01 kills per game average ranking him second in the province. Bennett calls him the best back-row attacker in the league. In the final game of the regular season on Saturday the Blues upset the Douglas College Royals, the No. 1-ranked team in Canada, and Dan played a large role, blasting back-row spikes and coming up with a huge solo block in the dying moments of the match to secure a tough five-set win. Even with that offensive and defensive showing, coach Bennett said he still thinks Dan could reach another gear as the Blues gun for a berth in the national championships this weekend.
"I think everybody thinks they've seen all he can give but I've seen him now for a full season and there's more in the tank from Dan and I'm hoping at provincials we're able to see the real Dan Caverly."
The men, seeded fourth, face the fifth-seeded host COTR team in the quarterfinals Thursday and a win in that match would set up a semifinal on Friday against Douglas with a berth in the provincial final on the line. The game against Douglas would also be for a trip to the national championships as the Pacwest league has been awarded two berths to nationals, meaning both provincial finalists will go to the big show.
On the women's side the Blues are also hunting for one of two national championship berths. They are also seeded fourth and will take on Camosun College in the opening round. A win against Camosun Thursday would set up a semifinal showdown against the University of the Fraser Valley, the No. 1-ranked team in Canada.
To follow the action visit pacwestbc.ca/volleyball2013/.