As sisters go, Murielle and Meliana Hlavac are close. Close in age – at just 20 months apart – and close in life. They’ll both tell you they are each other’s best friend. Despite this, though, the two have never been afforded the opportunity to play together on the same volleyball team, until this season.
Murielle is a senior hitter at Lake Ridge and one of the unquestioned leaders of the relatively new Lady Eagles program. She was a varsity player at Timberview her freshman year prior to moving to Lake Ridge when the school opened. Meliana is a junior moving up to the varsity this season after playing JV a year ago.
“I’m so glad we’re getting the opportunity to play together before I leave for college,” Murielle said. “It’s awesome to be on the same team with her. Not a lot of people get to experience that.”
Even though the siblings are relatively close in age, they always fell into different age groups and levels while playing club volleyball, keeping them from the experience they’re getting this season.
“We have a special connection on the court,” Murielle said. “Some people you can play with for three years and just not get a connection with. But we just have it. It’s more natural.”
It also helps that Meliana moved from hitter to setter last season. So instead of competing with her sister for playing time, she’s now teeing her up for kills.
“I was very excited, I thought it would be fun sharing the court with my sister,” Meliana said.
Watching the sisters play together has been a joy for head coach Jessica Tyler, especially because of the memories it brings back for her. Tyler herself had the opportunity to play volleyball with one of her three sisters in high school and college.
“I see the bond they have and it reminds me of what I had with my sister,” Tyler said. “It’s just indescribable, the connection that you have on and off the court. It’s unspoken. I really think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
But playing alongside a sibling can also be tricky, with a tendency to treat him or her differently from other teammates. Murielle admits that she talks to Meliana differently than she might other players, but maintains it doesn’t impact their relationship – giving credit to Meliana for how she handles it.
“She still loves me,” Murielle mused.
For Meliana’s part, she shows Murielle the respect of a team leader, but also that of an older sister.
“I still approach her as my older sister [on the court],” Meliana said. “We talk to each other in different ways. We have our own connection on the court.”
Tyler thinks their sisterly interaction has a positive impact on the squad as a whole.
“I feel like there is definitely a positive impact on the team just by them being sisters,” she said. “I feel like they rub off on the rest of the team and the rest of the team treats each other like sisters. I know this is only year three, but I feel like we’ve grown as a team to a family status.”
The sisters are also having a positive impact on the scoreboard.
“Meliana knows exactly how to set Murielle, and they put the ball down. It’s just excitement being able to watch that. I feel like it lifts the spirits of the team,” Tyler said.
With this likely being their only opportunity to play together, the duo would like to make the most of it.
“Meliana has never experienced the playoffs, so I think it would be really cool to be with her as she experiences with that for the first time and to be on the court, too,” Murielle said.
But don’t ask them to look too far into the future, because that means thinking about the sisters and best friends not only separating on the court, but at home. Meliana reveals a visible discomfort at the thought of not having her sister around after this season.
“I’m sure it will be different,” she said.