PHOENIX — Danielle and Jillian Loy proved to be a natural pairing in their first season playing side-by-side on the volleyball court, which came as little surprise to the identical twin sisters.
The senior duo led the Phoenix-John C. Birdlebough High School girls varsity volleyball team to a 10-2 record during the Fall II campaign, recently capping off their third and final varsity season together with a home victory over Hannibal on April 16.
The sisters are each longtime program contributors but started in positions next to each other this year — Danielle Loy as an outside hitter and Jillian Loy as the middle hitter — on the Firebirds front line for the first time since they began the sport together in seventh grade.
“They’re sometimes antagonistic but they always have each other’s backs and that’s the biggest thing, they’re always encouraging each other,” Phoenix coach Phillip Knoop said. “I was lucky enough this year to put them right next to each other on the court, and it showed, almost without saying anything, they both knew what to do. They got that twin connection, but without a doubt they’re fantastic communicators and leaders for our team.”
Danielle Loy is a returning honorable mention selection on the Onondaga High School League Liberty American Division All-Stars last year and ranked among the top 15 in the Section 3 Fall II stat leaders for aces (23) and kills (44), according to stats reported to Syracuse.com. She leads the team in both categories.
Jillian Loy leads the Firebirds in blocks while ranking third on the team for kills and aces.
Knoop credited the hitting and blocking skills of each and said they were strong complementary pieces after finally being placed in abutting spots on the front line.
“That was new for us and it was something exciting because it’s never been like that in all of our years playing together,” Danielle Loy said. “I think it was because we both kind of move as one most of the time, and it just kind of fit.”
The Loy sisters believe playing closer to each other on the court has helped tighten their twin bond outside of the gym. The self-described best friends also play varsity softball, fish together frequently and like to kayak in their time away from the court.
Danielle Loy said that, due to the adjusted positioning, she and Jillian were always the first person the other would see between plays offering encouragement or direction.
“I think this brought us closer,” Jillian Loy said. “When were up at the net this year, we could have a quick conversation or make each other laugh, so it was fun.”
She added: “Before we even entered sports, we were close, but it wasn’t like we are now. From seventh grade until now, we’ve played every sport together and we just get closer every practice and every game.”
The Loy twins joined a beach volleyball league together this past summer and spent much of the COVID-19 shutdown last spring working together to improve their game.
The sisters were more competitive in their connection when they first started organized sports, often comparing stats and other contributions to their respective teams in a bid to one-up the other. They now refer to each other as their biggest supporter on the court and offer constructive critiques and helpful tips when training together.
“It was always like a friendly competition and now we just enjoy the company of each other on and off the court,” Danielle Loy said. “We’re always, especially in the summer, outside hitting balls at each other, sometimes as hard as we can just to see what we can do and if we can make it work.”
Danielle Loy also led Phoenix in kills while Jillian tallied the most blocks for the Firebirds as juniors last year, helping the team finish 8-9 overall and reach the Section 3 Class B Playoffs. Both made great strides in serving ability and power at the net, according to Knoop, to spark the Firebirds’ two major areas of strength this year.
Knoop credited the Loy sisters and fellow senior, Katie Holbrook, for their collective leadership abilities keying the team’s drastically increased win percentage.
“Their example, especially in terms of coachability and how much they want to learn about the game of volleyball, has really impacted what the other girls are going to do,” Knoop said. “It shows, these girls all want to learn about the game of volleyball, and they all love the game of volleyball.”