High on the wall of Ardrey Kell’s gymnasium, the names of the Knights’ volleyball team members are listed down both sides of the scoreboard. You’ll notice several names repeated – three Duggans, two Schmidts and two Wingfields.
For the first time in three decades as a volleyball coach, Zoe Bell has three sets of sisters on her varsity roster.
The Duggans – Ella (a senior), Sylvia (a junior) and Mya (a freshman) – are all on the same team for the first time ever. Fraternal twin sisters, sophomores Jolie and Jordan Schmidt, have been playing together all of their volleyball careers. The Wingfields – Sophie (a junior) and Liza (a sophomore) – play the same position, setters.
But in the end, almost all of our players feel like my sisters, because we play together at Ardrey Kell.
“It’s kind of crazy that half of our team is made up of sisters,” said Sylvia Duggan, an outside hitter. “When you look at the scoreboard with names beside them, it’s funny to see so many of the same last names.
“But in the end, almost all of our players feel like my sisters, because we play together at Ardrey Kell, and a lot of us also play together in club volleyball all year long.”
Bell said she had a good laugh when she first put the rosters on paper.
“I remember when I was writing down the (varsity and junior varsity) rosters, it was kind of strange to see so many sisters,” Bell said. “It made me chuckle for a few minutes…They’re all different people, different personalities, but I’ll be honest, sometimes I get their names mixed up and call them the wrong name. They all look so much alike. I’m human, I make mistakes.”
Each of the seven sisters plays a different role on an Ardrey Kell team off to 7-3 start, including 4-1 in SoMeck8 conference play through the West Mecklenburg match.
The Duggans, Ella (defensive specialist), Sylvia (outside hitter) and Mya (outside hitter), are in the starting lineup, with Ella leading the team in digs and Sylvia leading the team in kills.
“It’s really cool sometimes when I look up and all three of us are in the same row together,” said Sylvia Duggan. “I know it’s something we will look back years from now and remember how special it was to be on the same team together.”
Meanwhile, Jolie (middle blocker) and Jordan Schmidt (outside hitter) have provided much needed height. Jordan is 5-foot-10, and Jolie 6-feet tall. The Schmidt twins say the Ardrey Kell volleyball team has been like a family since they moved in 2015 to Charlotte from Lousiville, Ky.
“We started playing volleyball at (Ardrey Kell), before we even started school here,” Jordan Schmidt said. “It was nice to have some friends and know some people the first week of school. The entire Ardrey Kell volleyball team became like our family.”
The Wingfield sisters play the same position – setters.
Sophie is second on the team in assists, as she plays when Ardrey Kell senior, co-captain, Maddie Sweeney, moves outside. Liza Wingfield splits her time at setter with both the Knights’ varsity and junior varsity teams.
“It’s interesting to see the interaction between all the sisters each day at practice or in games,” Sophie Wingfield said. “We definitely go at each other and push each other more than the rest of our teammates. Sometimes we fight like all sisters do, but it’s all part of that bond. We do something that make me laugh every day.”
Bell said while “she tells the girls she doesn’t have time for their sister bickering,” she admits the competition usually is a good thing for the team.
The Knights have strong leadership from senior starters like Nicole Johnson, Sweeney and McKayla Young. The team also has gotten big contributions from junior, Sophia Johnson, and freshman, Sania McCoy.
“We have all the potential and pieces to be a great team,” Bell said. “But the question is can we put it all together and make the steps we need to make a run at the conference title and into the postseason.”
The coaches and players know the standard for success at Ardrey Kell is measured by championships, from the SoMeck8 crown to the 4A state title.
No three players understand that tradition better than Ella, Sylvia and Mya Duggan, whose older sister, Lilly, was a major part of the 2012, Ardrey Kell state championship team.
Their older brother, Jonah, also played quarterback for the Knights football team. But it’s Lilly Duggan who can claim a championship.
“We’ve watched the video of when Lilly played in the state championship and we still have that video,” Ella Duggan said. “What we really want is a state championship ring. For me as a senior, it’s my last shot, so the time is now.”
Bell has won four state championship -- at Providence (1996, 2002, 2004, 2005).
“To win championships, whether you are talking about a conference or state championship, you have to trust the step by step process,” Bell said. “That means holding each other accountable, learning from your mistakes and getting better each practice, each game, all while keeping that positive energy. ... If we can do all those things well, we will give ourselves a chance in the state playoffs.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.