Tapp twins bring team together

Hannah and Paige Tapp are freshman middle blockers for the Gophers squad.

Minnesota middle blocker Hannah Tapp blocks a ball against Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota middle blocker Hannah Tapp blocks a ball against Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Megan Ryan

Freshmen Hannah and Paige Tapp may be twin sisters and Gophers volleyball players, but they’re not exactly the same.

Hannah is a true middle blocker while Paige plays on the right side. Hannah is an inch taller at 6 feet 2 inches. Paige is a blonde, but her sister is a brunette.

Amid the subtle differences, there’s a resounding similarity between the two sisters — their dedication to the game.

“They want very badly to be good at volleyball,” Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “So they care a lot about the process of improvement, and that’s nice to have.”

The Tapp twins wanted it so badly that they gave up two other sports in their junior year of high school to join powerhouse club volleyball team Northern Lights in Burnsville, Minn. They made a nearly two-hour drive from their home in Stewartville, Minn., three to four times a week for practice.

“They obviously really wanted it,” Northern Lights head coach Adam Beamer said, “in order to drive two hours each way to practice for two years.”

Beamer said the twins’ infectious attitude stepped up the level of play across his entire team.

And while the time commitment was intense and the drives to practice were long, Hannah Tapp said she wouldn’t know where she and her sister would be without the high-level playing experience gained at Northern Lights.

“It was one of the best decisions of my life,” Hannah Tapp said.

While some people found it hard to believe the two were willing to sacrifice so much for volleyball, Paige Tapp said it easily became part of their routine.

“It kind of just became life,” she said.

Dribbles for digs

Before the Tapps started playing volleyball competitively in middle school, they were dribbling basketballs. So when the time came their junior year to focus on volleyball, the decision was difficult.

“The hardest part was probably just giving up basketball and track,” Paige Tapp said. “We always wanted to play basketball. I wanted to play for Pat Summitt my whole life. And then as I got older … basketball wasn’t cutting it [and] volleyball was.”

Hannah Tapp said she didn’t want to let her teammates in other sports down, but she said they understood that she and her sister needed to focus all of their attention on volleyball to play collegiately.

That dream didn’t take long to come true once the Tapps started playing for Northern Lights.

While they signed a national letter of intent in the fall of their senior year, Beamer said they chose Minnesota back in late winter of their junior year.

“They actually committed before going to one of the biggest tournaments of the year that we would attend, which would have been a big recruiting tournament,” Beamer said. “A lot of times, kids would wait until after that to see what comes in.”

Paige Tapp said once she and her sister had visited Minnesota, it was pretty much a done deal.

“We had to base everything off how awesome Minnesota was,” she said.

The Minnesota Twins

Hannah Tapp, as a true middle blocker, has been a consistent starter for the Gophers this year to fill the hole in the lineup left by Dana Knudsen.

While Hannah has been seeing more court time, there’s no jealousy between the siblings.

“It doesn’t seem like there is much animosity between the two,” sophomore outside hitter Karlie Hauer said. “They both work really hard.

“Even though Hannah is starting, Paige still works hard, and she still is supportive of her sister, and Hannah is supportive of Paige. And it’s cool to see them out there, working together and getting along.”

But just because the twins are supportive doesn’t mean there isn’t a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.

“They crack me up because they were best friends and sisters, but they were so competitive with each other,” Northern Lights assistant coach Jennifer Jacobs said. “They kept trying to one-up each other all the time.”

Paige Tapp said the competition is the best part about having her sister on the same team because they push each other to work harder and improve.

“I always have to beat her out … do as much as she’s doing,” Paige Tapp said.

Hannah Tapp said while it’s not always rosy having her sister around, the pros outweigh the cons.

“It’s nice that you can always have an honest person holding you accountable,” she said.

Head coach McCutcheon said the twins have been a great addition to his team this season.

“They’re twins, but they’re very different, so they bring different stuff that’s good,” McCutcheon said. “Hannah is a little more kind of goofy, and Paige is certainly a little more driven. … They are very different, and yet, they’re still very connected.”

Beamer said while the twins are both athletic — with touches higher than 10 feet — they have different personalities on and off the court.

“Paige is a little more analytical than Hannah is,” Beamer said. “Hannah just plays.”

Sophomore outside hitter Daly Santana said she’s noticed in practice Paige is more serious when trying to fix an aspect of her game, whereas her sister will make fun of herself while making the change.

Hauer said the two have never been afraid to speak up and help older teammates.

“They just kind of stepped into practice, and they’re really dedicated,” Hauer said. “It’s nice to know that even as freshmen, they’re not afraid to just come in and say, ‘Hey, I’m here. I’m going to do the work I need to do to try and help myself out, help the team out.’”

That caring attitude is something that extends beyond just wanting the team to win, Jacobs said.

“I’ve never met two more nice young women in my life than those two,” she said. “They cared about everybody they met. [It] didn’t matter who it was, how little, small, big, tall.”

Beamer said he expects to see Hannah and Paige Tapp sharing the court at Minnesota more often in the coming years.

And the two can already picture what that future might look like.

“If Paige were to be playing right side, and I were to be playing middle, then sometimes we can block together,” Hannah Tapp said, “which I guess is cute.”