Keeping it in the family

Glenelg gets boost from two sets of sisters


At the start of the volleyball season, Glenelg coach Don Beall let his athletic director know that attendance will likely be down some.

It was for good reason. With sister combinations all over the court - Brooke, Sabrina and Amber Winterling, along with Allison and Dana Gittings - the No. 3 Gladiators have racked up plenty of wins with just slightly less applause.

"He asked why would attendance be down, and I told him because we have all these sisters on the team. So parent-wise, we're down [six]," Beall said jokingly.

Each of the five starting players contributes in her own way, and it has helped make for a unique season, one the Gladiators hope extends through a long playoff run.

When sophomore twins Amber and Sabrina Winterling got word that they made the varsity, they were ecstatic at the chance of playing a season with their older sister, Brooke, one of the team's dominating senior hitters along with fellow standout Julie Hollrah.

It should come as no surprise that when asked what was the biggest benefit of having sisters as teammates, Brooke is quick to point out one thing: communication.

"We're just so used to being with each other, it really helps out," she added. "If they're not doing something right, they won't get mad if I tell them what they're doing wrong. And if I'm not where I'm supposed to be, they'll yell at me. We're sisters and we can take that from each other."

The Gittings' sisters are more different than the same - Allison also plays basketball while Dana plays in the band - with the one common denominator being volleyball.

On the court, Allison, a senior, likes to take charge, while Dana, a junior, is content to sit back and blend in with the team. Allison doesn't hide the fact that she bosses around her young sister - in a nice kind of way.

With 469 assists going into the playoffs, Allison is among the metro area leaders with an impressive 8.8 assists per game. Dana, the team's third hitter, averages 3.3 digs and has 42 aces on the season.

"We're both the kind of player who hustles after everything - always diving to the floor to get on balls," Allison said.

While Brooke Winterling is enjoying a breakout senior season with 177 kills and 60 blocks, she's been just as pleased with her twin sisters' steady improvement throughout their first varsity season.

Amber is a defensive specialist in the back row who has made good on 96 percent of her serves and has 19 aces, while Sabrina, who has 43 blocks, has fit in well as a middle hitter to enable Brooke to move to the outside.

"Their biggest improvement is just being more aggressive out there," Brooke said. "At first, they were kind of shy because they're playing with older players. But our coach told them they had to play like varsity players, and they're playing like varsity players. It's been fun watching them grow."

For Amber and Sabrina, having older sister Brooke on their side of the court is a good thing for more reasons than one.

"I'm just glad I'm on her side because I definitely don't want to be on the other side when she slams the ball. She can hit really hard," Amber said.

Added Sabrina: "It's just been awesome getting to play with Brooke. She pumps us up and is always there for us."

Beall says he doesn't see it as a bunch of sisters playing together, just a fine group that knows their respective roles.

"I just look at it as individual athletes playing, and when they deserve the credit I give it to them, and when they need a little boost, I give them a little boost. It's been real fun," he said.

The Glenelg program is rich with tradition - three state championship plaques providing proof - and this year's team would like nothing better than to add one more.

"We're going all the way this year - that's what we're hoping and working for," Brooke said. "We're going to [work] as hard as we can because we really want it. It's going to take everything we have, but we can do it."

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