For this family, volleyball is part of the lineage
MARLBOROUGH - In the late 1970s, Tom Fearing coached Barbara Young on a volleyball team in Clinton. He also played on a US Volleyball Association squad with her husband, Joe.
Inevitably, their daughter, Audrey, took up the game too. And she also played for Fearing.
A romance bloomed. Tom and Audrey have been married 29 years, and their 18-year-old twins, Taylor and Alexa, are standouts on the unbeaten Marlborough High School girls’ volleyball team this fall.
It would have been difficult for the girls to snip the volleyball thread running back through their parents and grandparents.
“They come from a volleyball family,’’ said their mother, a math teacher at Marlborough High. “They didn’t have a choice.’‘
Audrey was a standout on the court at Assumption College (class of 1976), and returned to coach the program for three seasons (1977-79), winning 14 games in each of her final two years; she was inducted into the Worcester school’s athletic hall of fame in 1994. Her brother, Scott Young, put together a stellar 18-year playing career in the National Hockey League before returning to his alma mater, St. Mark’s School in Southborough, as the varsity hockey coach last winter.
But in the Fearing household, volleyball reigned. “Volleyball is just in our family,’’ said Taylor. “My parents wanted us to be exposed to it.’’ It was a rough start, around the seventh grade. “Volleyball was kind of boring,’’ she said.
“We knew nothing at all,’’ Alexa added. “When we were young, volleyball wasn’t very popular. We’d been playing soccer and basketball since we were 6. But we knew our father wanted us to play.’’
The twins have put together spectacular careers for the Panthers.
“They’re awesome,’’ said teammate Laura Silverman, a star in her own right. Marlborough entered Friday’s match against Shrewsbury at 9-0.
At 5-foot-9, Taylor sets the attack for the Panthers. “It’s the most difficult skill to learn,’’ said her father. “She took to it immediately. I was startled. Alexa is a spiker. She basks in the glory of other players’ hard work.’’
There’s no sibling rivalry on the floor. “They realize they’re buttering each other’s bread,’’ said Tom Fearing. In the offseason, they play for the Central Mass. Juniors Volleyball Club.
“Taylor is absolutely fabulous,’’ said coach Peter Lepore, in his 27th year at Marlborough. “I haven’t seen another better’’ at the position. “I hear that from opposing coaches too. You mention one little thing to Taylor and she’s going to master it. She’s very agile.’’
As for her sister, an outside hitter, Lepore said, “I haven’t seen many people hit the ball as Alexa has.’’
Lepore, 58, has won 801 games coaching girls’ volleyball, boys’ volleyball (12 years), and girls’ basketball (nine years). Basketball was his main sport in high school, and he played at Framingham State.
He officiates girls’ youth basketball and uses it as a tool to recruit volleyball players by identifying the most athletic players. He first noticed the Fearing twins at a basketball game, as well as Melissa Scott and Silverman, now also seniors on his Marlborough High team.
“Peter has a calming effect on girls,’’ said Marlborough’s athletic director, Jeff Rudzinsky. “He gets his point across without screaming. The girls understand what he’s trying to get across.’’
Silverman, who missed two matches with a torn hand muscle, “gives us strength in the middle,’’ said Lepore. “She’s turned herself into quite the player.’’
Scott, an all-state outside hitter last season, is a “take-charge player,’’ he added. “You hear her voice more than anyone else’s. She’s a tremendous leader.’’
“I was going to try cross-country in the eighth grade,’’ said Silverman, a middle hitter. “That didn’t work out. I tried field hockey. That didn’t work out.’’
When the twins kept running off to volleyball practice, Silverman said, she decided to give the game a shot.
“My dad bought me a cheap ball at Wal-Mart and we put up a net in the backyard. I was very, very bad. But I had a 6- or 7-inch growth spurt from eighth grade to sophomore year,’’ she said, and now stands 5-11.
Scott has two older sisters who played the game. She had been playing hoops and softball. “By freshman year volleyball was my focus,’’ she said. “I didn’t want too many things going on. I committed to volleyball.’’
That was a big year for the Fearing twins, too. “Our skills were developing,’’ said Alexa. “We had the potential to do good things.’’
Lepore, who led Marlborough to state titles in 2003 and 2004, directed the Panthers to 20 straight wins last season before a loss to Medfield in the Division 2 Central final.
“It isn’t my program, it’s the kids’ program,’’ said Lepore. “Melissa put together a summer program for ninth-graders and up. A lot of our players do a lot of hard work on their own.’’
Both Fearings are on the indoor and outdoor track teams. Taylor ranks number one academically in her class. Brown and Tufts are her top college choices. Alexa is considering Bucknell and Northeastern. Silverman is headed to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. Scott wants to take up mechanical engineering and is still looking at schools.
But there is unfinished business for the Panthers. They were close to a state title a year ago, but close isn’t good enough for these four seniors. “All four are getting better every day,’’ Lepore said.
“The way we play together, everybody’s improving,’’ said Scott. Not exactly comforting words for teams on Marlborough’s regular-season schedule, or beyond.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at email@example.com.