By Dave Dyer
There is just no separating Megan and Katie Schwarz, the identical twins and star volleyball players for defending Division 1 champion Londonderry.
They have the same outside interests, their prowess in the classroom is nearly identical (they're ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in their class of over 400 students) and, perhaps most of all, they're mirror images on the volleyball court.
"I can't even tell the difference between them," said Salem coach Dan Young, who has coached the talented sisters on their AAU teams. "When we (Salem) play them, unless I see their (uniform) numbers, I can't tell which is which.
"They're so talented, so dominant in every aspect of the game. They could be co-Players of the Year in New Hampshire, which would be unprecedented. I've never seen two players together, so talented, on the same team before."
There is indeed a chance that the Schwarz twins will split the Player of the Year award if only because coaches have trouble identifying one from the other. Except for assists, which is ruled by Amy Johnson, the Schwarz sisters, who are listed at 5-foot-10, dominate nearly every aspect of the game (especially at the net) for Londonderry.
Entering the week, Megan led the unbeaten Lancers (16-0) in career kills with 693, followed by Katie at 650, but Katie is ahead of her sister in digs. They're both currently serving at a rate of well over 90 percent.
"Game in and game out, their stats are about as even as you can get, which makes sense when you think about how balanced their game is," said Londonderry coach Peter Willis. "They're as complementary a pair of players as I've ever seen.
"If one has better kill numbers, the other probably has bigger serve numbers. When one's hitting up front, the other digs and covers her back. Their communication is uncanny. It's like they're a team within a team."
Megan believes that their communication could be because of some kind of sixth twin sense, saying that, "I always know where she (Katie) will be. I know she'll cover me and she'll be there," but Katie thinks it may be more from experience.
"I don't know if we have any kind of special communication — I think it's just from playing together so long," she said.
The twins' mother, Anne, believes there may be some truth to both sides of the equation.
"They're best friends and have always pursued the same interests and performed at similar levels," she said. "(But) with both basketball and volleyball, they are able to play as individuals but really seem to have that sixth sense about what the other is doing.
"Their basketball coach (when they were in middle school) would always be calling out as one was dribbling down the court, 'Pass it to your sister,' and typically I think that was their intention all along."
Although they were fine basketball players, Megan and Katie stopped playing hoops after their freshman year at Londonderry in order to concentrate on volleyball and track. And once they focus on something, there is no holding back.
"Before last year (in volleyball), they were dominant in hitting, passing and everything except serving," said Young. "Then they started working on their serves — endlessly working at it — and now they're great servers. They have that great drive to succeed, to be the best they can be at everything they do."
In academics, the twins have always been near the top of their class and the majority of their courses are honors or AP-level. In track, they have been successful in virtually every event, which is why coach Sue Johnson has steered them to the heptathlon.
Megan is a bit better in the high jump, while Katie has a slight edge in the long jump but they're nearly identical in the other events, with particular success in the sprints and hurdles. Last year in the state heptathlon, Megan finished second and Katie was fifth.
"Hopefully, we'll repeat (as volleyball champs) this year and then I'd like to win the heptathlon," said Megan.
Megan's chief competition in the heptathlon may come from Katie although, while both have suffered from painful shin splints over the years, Katie has suffered more, causing her to miss the competition as a sophomore and limit her training for it last year.
And, of course, if Megan were to lose to her sister, it wouldn't be much of a loss.
"We're a little competitive (between each other), but it's not a big deal who wins," said Katie. "If one of us is better at something, we know the other is better at something else."
Although the twins originally considered going to different colleges, they have changed their minds and are applying for early admission to Johns Hopkins, where older sister Kelly is a junior field hockey player. They definitely plan on continuing their volleyball career there.
Willis has no doubt that they'll fit right in to whatever program they join.
"They're excellent teammates ...(and) their performance reflects their personality — steady, consistent and best effort every day," said Willis. "They understand and appreciate individual play as part of the team concept. ... They're the best there is."
Indeed, they're the best not only that Londonderry has to offer but, as a one-two punch, perhaps the state as well.
Here is how Megan and Katie answered a few questions about their favorite things.
TV showThe OfficeThe Office
TeacherMrs. KochMrs. Koch
Track eventheptathlon/hurdlesheptathlon/long jump
Pro sports teamPatriotsRed Sox
Telling them apart
The parents of Katie and Megan Schwarz, Bill and Anne, have obviously learned to tell their daughters apart, but it hasn't always been easy for them (as babies, they painted Katie's big toenail red and kept it that way).
For others, an event last year made it much easier when Katie participated in the Pantene beautiful lengths hair donation program at Londonderry High School and cut her hair. So when they don't have their hair pulled back in ponytails, Katie's hair is about shoulder length and Megan's is much longer.
On the volleyball court, in addition to wearing different numbers, Megan wears black knee pads and Katie wears white.
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