Twins make recruiting a package deal

Caroline Coyer (left) and twin sister Katherine Coyer plan to play basketball together at Villanova after finishing their senior year at Oakton (Vienna, Va.). Courtesy of Phil Dolinger

Katherine grabs the rebound, dribbles twice and fires an outlet pass to Caroline, waiting at midcourt. Caroline weaves past two defenders, stops at the 3-point line, fakes a shot and whips a pass to Katherine, wide open underneath. She makes an easy layup for the Oakton (Vienna, Va.) Cougars.

The sequence is extremely familiar to teams in the Virginia’s Northern Region, where Caroline and Katherine Coyer, fraternal twin sisters, have kept their team in the state championship hunt for the last three seasons. The red-haired duo -- Caroline the guard and Katherine the wing –- has one more shot at the state playoffs before heading off to Villanova to play basketball after graduation in May.

The Coyers, who were recruited for both basketball and soccer, made national news last April when they announced they would only consider scholarship offers from colleges that recruited them both for basketball.

While the twin package deal may be rare in the D.C.-area, there are other twin sisters around the country who already are, or will soon be, playing high-level college sports together.

For starters, take a look at two sets of identical twins -- Kadie and Amber Rolfzen, 6-foot-3 volleyball players from top-ranked Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.) who will be Cornhuskers when they graduate from high school in 2013, and Ali and Evan Foulsham, lacrosse players from Madison, N.J., who are currently sophomores at Penn State. Another set of twins –- Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez, elite basketball prospects in the class of 2013 from Pocatello, Idaho, are currently making the rounds on unofficial visits together but may eventually decide to go their separate ways.

Going through the recruiting process is tough for any high school student, but it can be even more difficult when you’re worrying about your twin sister.

“It got really stressful in our sophomore and junior year, that’s when it was unbearable,” says Caroline Coyer, who with her sister has played tournaments against another well-regarded set of twins, Maya and Malina Hood, from La Jolla, Calif., who will attend the University of San Diego next year. “I can remember breaking down into tears at some points.”

Throughout the recruiting process, which began for the Coyers in middle school, the girls insisted they wanted to be dealt with as individuals. For a while, the sisters wanted to go to the same college, but play different sports: Caroline was focused on basketball, being recruited by UConn and Notre Dame, while Katherine was the coveted soccer prospect. It wasn’t until they were having trouble prioritizing schools that they realized adding a condition to their recruitment might help.

“The more we thought about being apart in college, the idea was really awful,” Katherine Coyer says. “Going [to school] together and doing what we love together just sounded so much better than doing it apart.”

With the Coyers’ condition in place, the schools self-selected. They either didn’t rate both girls highly enough or couldn’t take two similar players in the same recruiting class.

That type of stress was never an issue for the towering Rolfzens.

“It’s every girl’s dream in Nebraska [to be a Cornhusker],” Kadie Rolfzen says. “When they offered us in the beginning of our freshman year, we decided to say yes.”

The only odd part of deciding so early, Rolfzen says, is that she and her sister, who were named ESPNHS sophomores of the year in 2010 and are looking to lead their high school team to another FAB 50 national championship, will be committed to Nebraska longer than they actually will be students there. They are ready to begin playing college volleyball, but they still have another year of high school left.

The Foulshams, who also played basketball in high school and would use their identical looks to confuse refs trying to assign fouls, say Penn State was an easy choice.

“We felt the same way about every school we visited,” Ali Foulsham says, “but we fell in love with Penn State.”

Evan and Ali were the first set of twins the Nittany Lions recruited in 10 years, says Tara Hohenshelt, an assistant coach. While the twin aspect can make players stand out among their peers, she says, coaches always need to ask themselves “are they Division I athletes?”

Hohenshelt believes there is tangible value in having twins on the same team.

“They know each other’s tendencies on the field,” she says. “And they can be very direct with each other and take each other’s feedback because of that strong sibling bond.”

There aren’t statistics on how often young women who are twins go off to the same college, says Nancy Segal, Director of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State-Fullerton, but she understands why it might happen.

“Putting their relationship ahead of their personal satisfaction speaks loud and clear about the importance of the twinship to them,” Segal says.

The Coyers have similar advice for twins who may someday be in their shoes.

“If you want to go to school together, you might have to compromise,” Caroline says. “Be honest about whether this is something you really want.”

Once in college, many twins have strategies to differentiate themselves. Some won’t room together and intentionally will not choose the same classes or same sections of classes. But many still stick together while aiming for independence.

Evan Foulsham does a good job framing the decision she and Ali made to go to college together.

“Leaving home at the end of the summer and saying ‘I’ll see you at Thanksgiving break,’ ” she says, “would not have been an ideal situation.”