Double trouble for Nebraska opponents
One parks herself on the couch to watch episodes of "Chicago Fire." The other looks in from the kitchen and thinks, "Why is she watching this? This is so stupid."
One wouldn't be caught dead in a mall. The other will shop 'til she drops.
What both can agree on, however, is that there is no finer feeling in the world than stuffing an opponent on an attempted kill or punishing a ball onto the other side of a volleyball court.
Meet the Rolfzen twins, Kadie and Amber, a pair of freshman outside hitters who hope to help the eighth-seeded Nebraska (23-6) volleyball team make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
It was five years ago, long before the debut episode of Kadie's beloved "Chicago Fire," when Nebraska coach John Cook took a gamble on two home-state girls and offered both eighth-graders scholarships after a Nebraska volleyball camp.
"For both Kadie and me, [committing to Nebraska] was a no-brainer," said Amber, who would much rather spend her time burning money at the mall than sitting in front of the TV. "We grew up near here; we watched the football games; we were fans. We didn't even need to talk to Mom and Dad, but we did anyway and committed about a week later."
After waiting the entirety of the Rolfzens' high school tenures at Papillion-La Vista South (Neb.), Cook and the Nebraska faithful are finally reaping the benefits this fall, as Kadie and Amber are second and third on the team in kills, respectively.
"We're kind of just listening to what Coach says," Kadie said. "It's kind of a work in progress."
"At this level everyone's good and you have to adjust to a better level of play and figure out what you can contribute and how you can make an already good team better."
And there was immediate pressure on the girls to do just that -- Cook went on the record this past summer and said he expected both to make an impact as freshmen.
So far, they have lived up to Cook's expectation. Take, for instance, a recent game against Michigan, when Kadie ignited a listless Huskers squad that found itself down 17-12 in the first set. Kadie partnered with teammate Meghan Haggerty on a block, then rattled off four kills in the next six points to seal the set in an eventual four-set win against the then-19th-ranked Wolverines. Or an early-November, five-set nail-biter against Northwestern, when Amber's hands were so active on the defensive end that her six block assists might well have been the difference in the Nebraska win.
"We definitely push each other in anything we do," Kadie said. "If she does something great, I want to do that, too. We constantly compete with each other, and I think we're better for it."
The twins' early success might stem from their attention to matters beyond the court. Both Kadie and Amber were able to graduate early from high school and arrived on the Lincoln campus in January. This got them collegiate experience in multiple ways. On the court, they got to play sand volleyball, a spring sport that few colleges have. Off the court, they took classes and became accustomed to the academic environment, an adjustment most fall-sport freshmen have to make in conjunction with in-season demands. It also afforded Kadie a collegiate training staff to help her sort out some lingering injuries.
"We also used the spring to meet a lot of the other athletes and get accustomed to the social environment, which has really helped because you then have a support system," Amber said.
It has helped each of them develop her own identity in a new social setting, too. As is the case with many twins (the Rolfzens are fraternal), they often are treated as one package instead of two different people with unique personalities. The fact that they are both 6-foot-3 and excel at the same craft can add to the confusion.
But it's the support system at Nebraska, and their friendship with each other, that has this sister act singing a happy tune. They share a car but don't always go to the same places or hang out with the same people. They live in the same housing complex but don't room together.
"At this point, I think everyone but our coach can tell us apart," Kadie said with a bit of a chuckle. "Our teammates have been great. As they've gotten to know each of us, they've learned that we're different people who respond to different things."
The Huskers, who won the most recent of their three NCAA titles in 2006, open the NCAA tournament at home on Friday night against Fairfield. The crowd at the Bob Devaney Sports Center will look on as two seemingly identical players contribute heavily to the Huskers' hopes for a title run.
And even though Coach Cook might struggle at times to identify which one is which, he's most certainly glad he has two of them.