The Snowden girls’ volleyball team is certainly more than the sum of the Chen sisters, but having three sisters, including twins, on the court simultaneously during the Cougars' run for their first-ever bid to the city championships more than keeps things interesting for the entire squad.
“They are very hard with each other so sometimes I have to tell them to ‘Shut it off and play as a team, don’t blame each other,'” Snowden coach Margaret Cash-Griffin said. “It does get hard with three sisters.
“They are great leaders. They are very competitive and determined … They don’t like to lose and when they do lose they are very hard on themselves on the floor.”
But that sisterly tension between junior twins Emily and Elaine (both 17) and senior Stephanie (who will be 18 this month) is certainly outweighed by their performance on the court.
Snowden (10-2) was tied with O’Bryant at the top of the Boston City League South standings going into Monday afternoon’s match between the two squads.
Last season Snowden finished 9-6 after losing to O’Bryant in the second to last game of the season, dashing the team’s hopes of going to cities for the first time in the program’s history. In the first meeting with O’Bryant last year Snowden won 3-0 but they lost 3-1 in the second meeting.
This year they lost the first meeting with OB, 3-2, on Oct. 1.
“We’re going to beat them,” Stephanie Chen said of beating O'Bryant after the team lost its second match of the season last week against Burke.
If they do beat OB on Monday, cities will be in their sites.
“It will be great, oh my God,” Emily said of going to cities.
Their performance on the court is especially notable considering the fact that the sisters have only played three years of organized volleyball. The Mission Hill residents first started playing volleyball at the Wang YMCA around the time Stephanie entered high school and they quickly took to playing there every Friday night.
“Having them for three years, I’ve seen them grow, going from not even knowing how to touch a ball to playing like professionals,” Cash-Griffin said.
While volleyball has come naturally to them, learning how to put up a wall between their sporting life and home life has been a challenge.
“You’re with your sisters at all the time and when you go home you bring things from the court home and you bring things from the house onto the court,” Stephanie said. “Sometimes we’ll go days without talking to each other. It’s hard to believe but that’s what happens.”
Cash-Griffin said the team has actually qualified for the state tournament the last three years but she hasn’t taken them to play in it because she didn’t think they were mentally mature enough to play at the state level.
That is not the case anymore. The coach said that the team will likely be competing in states later this fall.
“We’re working on things,” Cash-Griffin said. “Before they could go to the tournament they had to learn to say ‘OK, alright we need to play as a team.’ I felt we weren’t ready last year. I didn’t just want to depend on the sisters.”
The team is still young this year with nine of the 16 players being underclassmen.
And that’s why the sisters' leadership is so crucial to Snowden.
"Playing with my sisters is hard but it’s also helpful because you know their weaknesses and their strengths,” Stephanie said. “So guess it’s a good thing.”
“I totally agree, it’s definitely hard but then again it’s a good thing,” Elaine said. “I enjoy playing with my sisters at all times. We carry the teams and that is a huge benefit, especially for the cities.”
The only bad thing is that Stephanie will be going away to college next year.
“I’m sad because I’m leaving and I won’t get to play anymore,” Stephanie said. “I’m still going to visit.”
“She better,” Emily said.
“I’ll come back for practice and try to help out as an assistant coach,” Stephanie said. “I’ll still be involved in volleyball.”
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