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Family front and center for Interlake volleyball team | Prep sports feature
From youth leagues to the pros, regardless of the sport, coaches go to great lengths to create a "family atmosphere" around their teams and programs.
For Interlake volleyball coach Melissa Brodsky, it has come without much prompting.
This group of Saints was already close after losing a deep class of seniors from last year's squad and finding themselves holding down increased roles. But with two pairs of sisters on the team, family has become impossible for Interlake to ignore.
"It is like a sisterhood," said 'Mama Brodsky,' as her players affectionately call her. "It is so important to have that relationship off the court so you know you can trust each other on the court."
Seniors Jacqueline Regalia and Isabelle Long and juniors Julia Regalia and Melissa Long all start for Brodsky and the two pairs of sisters have spent the past two years piling up stats, making a push for the playoffs and most importantly, enjoying the experience of competing with a sibling.
"It is huge, just because they are sisters and know each other so well," Brodsky said of the on-court chemistry between the pairs. "They just know how to respond to each other."
The Regalia Sisters are the more introspective of the two pairs, according to their coach. Setter Julia plays the role of the ever-smiling enthusiast while elder-sister Jacqueline brings the intensity as one of the team's core leaders and most talented players.
The two said they each began playing volleyball in elementary school, but first found themselves sharing a court as club players and then with the Interlake varsity for the past two seasons.
"It's really nice to share that competitiveness with your sibling," Jacqueline said. "When she does something right and I do something right and it comes together, we know we both helped each other."
The Longs have been helping each other pick up big points and win matches for many years, only on a different court.
Both are accomplished tennis players, with Isabelle reaching the state tournament in all three of her seasons as a prep thus far and Melissa taking a spot in the number one doubles pair for the Saints last season. Before the fall season began in prep sports, Isabelle reached the round of 16 at the 18 & Under USTA Junior Sectional Championships in Oregon and both have a chance to continue playing past their days as Saints.
They got their first taste of playing on the same side of a net as elementary schoolers, taking the trip across the Cascades to play in a doubles tournament in a higher age bracket.
"We really bonded," Melissa said of that early experience, adding they had plenty of success, even against older girls. "She's really the one person who will tell me what I'm doing wrong."
Brodsky backed up that assertion and said the Longs' ability to hold one another accountable and exert leadership on the floor has carried over to the rest of the team.
When the two were unable to play in a match against Bellevue, their absence was noticeable both on the stat sheet and in the atmosphere around the team.
"They are competitive athletes and that is what I love about them," Brodsky said. "They are loud and strong girls and they know how to get after each other."
Isabelle said they first played volleyball together last year on the Interlake varsity and immediately felt a synergy on the floor.
"We were playing the same position," she said. "We were like one person mixed together."
All four sisters, along with their coach, said the hope is to use the positive vibes from the chemistry among the team to make another push to the playoffs, a challenge that only grew last year with the return to Class 3A. The Saints made the Class 2A state tournament in 2010 and 2011, but last reached the 3A tourney in 1999, around the time many of the team's current players were being born.
But that is doing little to dampen the enthusiasm of a team that has already upset Mount Si, becoming the first KingCo team other than Mercer Island to hand the Wildcats a conference loss in Brodsky's four years as head coach.
"I'm so excited, because I know this team has great potential," Isabelle said. "It will be cool to play with my sister for the last time and it makes everything more memorable with her right there beside me."