Grace and Emma White prepare for each match in their own, unique way.
It’s a pregame routine as identical as the ‘Twin Towers’ themselves, dating back to last season. A game plan chat and sister-to-sister pump-up session, starting and ending each time with a fishtail braid for Grace.
“Everyone has their little superstition or routine,” said Emma, who started the regimen in 2021 while battling through injuries. “For us it’s hair braiding. It’s our time where we can both just mentally prepare.”
The White twins have always had a feel for each other on the court. They grew up playing on the same teams and like most sisters, can communicate without saying a word.
That same chemistry has been on display in 2022 as the duo – nicknamed by Mustang coach Blake Newman – has helped lead the Broncos to two wins during the first week of the season, including a five-set thriller over Union in the team’s home opener on Monday. Grace finished with 16 blocks while Emma totaled six kills.
Seniors Emma (7) and Grace White (14) jump to make a block at the net during a five-set win over Union on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at the Mustang Event Center. (Photo by Shelly Holinsworth / Freelance Action Photography)
Newman, who coached the twins previously in club ball, has seen their relationship build over the years. He is aware of their compatibility on and off the court, but also knows that between sisters, there is always a competitive nature.
“They have a great bond, but you know that sibling rivalry is still there, which is a good thing,” he said. “They push each other in the weight room when nobody is looking and then you see it on the court. Each of them wants to make more plays than the other, don’t kid yourself. And that works to their advantage and for the team.”
Grace says that although they are each other’s biggest fan, Newman is spot on.
“I would say I’m really hard on myself personally with sports and we can be hard on each other,” she said. “But we both know that there are no bad intentions and that we just want to motivate each other. If we say something snappy or mean, we know it’s nothing to get mad about just that we need to focus and lock in.”
The pair came together even more in 2021 while Emma suffered through an injury-plagued season. Grace says her sister’s ability to fight back and return to the court has motivated her and their teammates.
“It’s like it never happened,” Grace said. “She struggled a lot through that and was timid and scared of re-injuring herself. But she just kept working and pushing herself to get back for our senior year. She has stepped up and proved herself a lot and it has definitely been inspiring.”
For Emma, it was a process. There were ups and downs, but she never looked back, set on returning for one more season.
“Nobody likes to get hurt, especially to end your season,” she said. “It was a struggle at first to trust the doctors and everything going on. But I feel like it helped me grow as a teammate and it was a huge learning experience. I was lucky to still be part of the team and watch them grow. Now I’m just ready to contribute on the floor.”
Grace stepped into a more prominent role during their junior season, racking up over 100 blocks while helping lead the Broncos to 19 wins. She became one of the team’s catalysts at middle blocker and a regular in the starting lineup.
Now, Emma is taking the leap as Newman looks to the twins to fill leadership roles at the top of the depth chart.
“Being a squad without a lot of seniors, they are girls I can count on to establish the culture we want,” Newman said. “With them having played for me in the past, they can speak to how demanding or hard I can be as a coach. But they can also speak to how much I and the staff care for each person on the team.
“For them to be there to reinforce that to their teammates is priceless. They are huge assets for us.”
The twins agree that last year was a blip on the radar for Mustang. After reaching the state finals in 2020, they went .500 and didn’t recapture a bid to the state tournament. Better results are expected, and the Whites are setting the bar.
“We have really high standards for this team,” Grace said. “Last year we struggled with finishing games and encouraging each other. Now we feel this group is super close and our goal is to host regionals and make it back to state.”
For Emma, it’s a family atmosphere fueling the Broncos this year. And if that means learning to fishtail braid, then so be it. It’s a sister thing.
“Everyone has a positive mindset, and we feel like we have a very good team that loves each other.
“That makes it so much more fun.”