SANDCAST: Nicole and Megan McNamara are taking on the world

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Beach Bytes 4/10/2019-Nicole McNamara-Megan McNamara-UCLA beach volleyball
UCLA's McNamara twins, Nicole and Megan, earned berths in the 2019 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany June 28-July 7/ed Chan, VBshots.com

You could have seen it coming a long time ago, had you been paying close enough attention. When Nicole and Megan McNamara, identical twins from Vancouver, Canada, were on the same indoor team. Nicole set, Megan hit. Four others were on the court, sure, but “she would set me every ball,” Megan said, as the two broke out in fits of laughter on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “And our coach was like, ‘You gotta give other people some love.’ ”

Not really, actually. Their indoor team was successful enough. And anyway, they could just go play on the beach. Nobody else to set. Nobody else to hit.

Just the twins.

Even in a quasi-team environment at UCLA, where they ushered in a new, small ball, fast movement offense that is becoming vogue in the college game, it was still just the McNamaras on court one. They could win and the Bruins could lose, or vice versa, which, Megan admitted, “is bizarre. It’s a bizarre feeling.”

“You can win your match but then UCLA loses and you’re happy, then you’re bummed or vice versa,” Nicole said. “You’re all pissed about your loss but the team’s all stoked.”

Bizarre as it could sometimes be, it was an almost-perfect four years in Westwood. Two National Championships. One of the most successful partnerships the game has seen in its nascent stages at the collegiate level.

And now it’s back to their roots: Just the two of them. No scheduled practices with Stein Metzger and the crew. No team nutritionist or personal trainers or world class weight facilities.

Just Megan and Nicole. One sets. The other hits. Taking on the world.

That’s where they are right now, actually. Out in the world. Itapema, Brazil, specifically. Thousands of miles from home, whether that home be considered Vancouver or Westwood or, soon, Toronto, where they’ll be moving after graduation following a four-star in Jinjiang, China. Recipients of a wild card in Itapema, they’re straight into the main draw, an excellent welcome to the tour gift from the FIVB, which is suddenly becoming replete with Canadians playing at a world-class level.

Two different Canadian teams — Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, Brandie Wilkerson and Heather Bansley — held the top spot in the world at one point last season. The McNamaras are already high enough in the world ranks that they’ve earned a spot in the World Championships during the last week of June and first of July, in Hamburg, Germany.

“Our main goal for the summer was going to be to qualify for some of the bigger tournaments, and also to get settled with our new life in Toronto,” Nicole said. “Those were our main focuses so even qualifying for World Championships was amazing. We wouldn’t have expected that. If you would have told us that last year, we wouldn’t have believed you. It’s unbelievable.”

What’s unbelievable now will be the standard soon enough. It would have been unbelievable, when they were freshmen Bruins, to conceive of a time when a school not named USC would win back-to-back national titles. Now that’s the new standard.

It would have been unbelievable, when they were pre-teens, watching Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor, to conceive of a time when they’d not only be competing at that level, but pushing them. Now, after taking Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat to three in Mexico in October, that’s the new standard.

So they’ll continue setting standards, blowing past expectations, making the unbelievable quite real, quite regularly. Together. Always together.

One sets. The other hits.

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