MINNEAPOLIS — BYU coach Heather Olmstead, an identical twin herself, said she simply couldn’t tell them apart.
So she bought Lacy Haddock a supply of colored socks and told her to wear them all the time so that Olmstead could tell the Haddock sisters apart.
Twins times two are just some of the reasons why BYU is a special volleyball team.
The Cougars (31-1) play top-seeded Stanford (32-1) in the first semifinal Thursday of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship. The second match pits Illinois (32-3) against Nebraska (28-6) in what should be a big-time night of college volleyball in the — sorry, but we have to — Twin Cities.
Back to the Haddock sisters, 5-foot-10 seniors from Longmont, Colo., who really do look like they’re cloned from one another. But for that matter, so does Olmstead and her sister, Nicole. They’re two of seven siblings, including Ginger, Karalee, Brooke, Laci and brother Shawn, now the BYU men’s coach who was the women’s head coach before handing the job off to Heather.
Anyway, Lyndie Haddock-Eppich is BYU’s fearless setter who has been a fixture in the Cougar lineup. Lacy, who has had to be patient, paid her dues and waited her turn, and is now playing opposite her sister on the right side.
“It’s incredible to be able to share this experience with my twin sister, especially because we watched my older sister (Tambre Nobles) play here four or five years ago in the final four,” Lyndie said. “Just being able to cap off our year and our career with a Final Four appearance is just awesome.”
“Being a twin is pretty cool,” Lacy said. “I don’t know what it’s not like. But it seems a lot more fun and it’s really special to play with her because we’ve been dreaming of these kinds of moments our whole lives and never thought we’d get here. It’s so cool to be living your dreams with your sister.”
Olmstead got to play with Nicole in high school and in club. Heather went on to play at Utah State.
“I think being a twin is just really special, you have a special bond,” Heather said. “I loved playing with my sister growing up. We were beach partners, played indoor together. I understand the bond that Lacy and Lyndie have together.
“It’s really cool to see them play together. I’ve never seen them fight on the court or any I have sort of quarrel. They just love each other, really impressive. I’ve been honored to coach both Lacy, Lyndie and Tambre, their older sister (who was on BYU’s team that lost in the 2014 NCAA title match).”
BYU beat Stanford, the Pac-12 champion, in five (25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 20-25, 15-11) August 31 in Provo. In that match, Lyndie — who can deliver a vicious, no-look attack on the second ball — had two kills in three errorless swings, seven digs and five blocks. Lacy played in four of the sets and had three kills but hit .091.
Lacy’s role had grown this season and then changed since, especially when junior outside McKenna Miller went down with a season-ending knee injury a month ago. Miller was averaging 3.25 kills per set, was hitting .307 and is still second on the team with 21 aces.
Miller, wearing a bulky brace on her left leg, has been a tremendous cheerleader for her team.
“I’m trying,” Miller said, smiling and wincing at the same time. “I feel like I could still do more, so I’m trying to be as supportive as I can be. I’m glad I get to be here on this trip and be a part of this somehow, because this team is really special.”
Evidence of that is how BYU has rolled with what could have been a devastating setback.
Yes, the Cougars lost their last regular-season match, a West Coast Conference defeat to Loyola Marymount, but sweeping Stony Brook and Utah, knocking out Florida in four and then sweeping Texas in the NCAA Tournament has vaulted the Cougars into the sports’ biggest weekend.
“I’m really proud of how they played,” Miller said. “A lot of people could have seen this as an excuse but none of that affected them.”
Accordingly, the adjustments Olmstead and staff made included putting freshman Madelyn Robinson — who did play against Stanford — full-time at outside and having Lacy Haddock go to the right side. Against Texas, their attack percentages were low, but Robinson had seven kills, two digs and a block, and Lacy Haddock had five kills and a block.
There’s another element to the BYU team that makes the Cougars different. Two of the players, Haddock-Eppich, and leading attacker Roni Jones-Perry, are married.
Haddock-Eppich said she got married young because it’s part of her Mormon culture. Jones-Perry, a senior from West Jordan, Utah, said religion wasn’t part of her decision.
Jones-Perry was married in 2016. She said Todd Perry has helped her career.
“Yeah, I don’t know if it’s necessarily being married or just that my husband is so great,” Jones-Perry said. “But he just takes a lot of the load off of me. He makes it easier to go worry about the things I need to worry about, whether it’s cooking me dinner, whatever he can do to make my life a little bit easier. I think in that way he’s made me a better volleyball player.”
But Jones-Perry doesn’t have a twin sister.
So it was a shock to Lacy’s system when Lyndie married Kraymer Eppich last June.
“It was really weird and hard at first,” Lacy admitted. “I thought she was just going to leave me forever. But we see each other every day.”
“Honestly, we hang out more probably, because I go over to her place, which is bigger than mine, and her husband always makes us dinner.”