October 19, 2004

Sister Act: Confidants that Mean Business

Oct. 14, 2004

By Alison Fleck
The Santa Clara

Every athlete occasionally gets frustrated with a teammate. But when that teammate is a sister, that frustration can escalate.

"Dammit Anna, get up faster." "Toni, you should have jumped higher!" These are two examples of the bantering heard on the court from Annalisa and Toni Muratore -- sisters on the No. 15 Santa Clara women's volleyball team. The Atwater, Calif., natives started playing volleyball in fourth grade. At Atwater High School the two played together for one year when Toni was a senior and Anna was a freshman. Their former coach, Michelle Osmer, mentored each sister for four years and is proud of their progression.

"It was hard at first having Toni as a senior while Anna was a freshman because Toni wanted her to be better," Osmer said. "We had to tell Toni they couldn't be sisters on the court and that she had to cut Anna some slack." At 6 feet 2 inches, Toni was heavily recruited by Coach Jon Wallace to play at Santa Clara. Toni said her first visit to the campus convinced her to play for the Broncos. "When I visited here, the girls were awesome and I really connected with them, so I knew this is was where I wanted to play," Toni recalled. "I liked the coaches and I also wanted to play close to home."

As an outside hitter, Toni has been a key player for the Bronco squad for four years.

Toni made the All-West Coast Conference First Team as a freshman, redshirted her sophomore year due to a broken ankle, but managed to returned to the All-WCC team the same year. She has made over 750 kills and 20 blocks in her career. Her high school coach, her teammates, and Anna describe Toni as a very aggressive player, both vocally and physically. According to Coach Wallace, Toni pushes Anna hard in practice and boosts her confidence in matches.

"Toni really has been a great leader to Anna and the rest of the team," Wallace said.

Anna, on the other hand, is more reserved. Coach Osmer remembers Anna to be extremely shy and embarrassed when talking about her talent.

Despite her nervousness off the court, Anna plays confidently as a middle blocker. She is ranked second nationally in hitting percentage, recording over 130 kills with only 23 errors in 230 attempts. Her success help rank the Broncos in the top five NCAA in blocks per game. While watching Toni play at Santa Clara, Anna was able to make friends with the squad and thus swayed her decision to attend the university.

"However, I did think about not coming here, just to be different and not be Muratore's little sister," Anna admits. "But I think I can make a name for myself."

Following in her sister's footsteps, but definitely not in her sister's shadow, the freshman has already made a name for herself, other than "little Toni."

"It was definitely unexpected to be named (WCC) player of the month," Anna said. "I was just really excited to be player of the week!" With Anna's ongoing success, many people have asked Toni if she's jealous. But Toni just smiles, saying that she's proud of her sister's accomplishments. "She is doing really awesome and it is great for our team and for her," Toni said. Coach Osmer respects Toni's maturity in answering questions regarding sibling rivalries. It also helps that the sisters play different positions. Junior outside hitter Cassie Perret agrees that the girls do not act really competitively against each other because of the different positions.

"Both are playing really well right now, and obviously Anna's doing a tremendous job as a freshman, but Toni is also playing really aggressively, so I don't think one is out-shining the other," Perret said. The girls not only encourage one another on the court, but also hang out together as friends. Toni says they "hit up" the mall together, do dinners and attend mass.

"Every time we go out, we're together except, of course, when I go to the bars!" Toni chuckled causing Anna to roll her eyes.

Teammates said they haven't seen any quarrels between them. Coach Wallace agrees that their relationship off the court is very healthy. They talk about things off the court so it doesn't interfere with how they play together. Toni wants to push Anna and make her better, and in return Anna thanks Toni for helping her.

"Anna has incredible talent and the ability to be one of the best players ever at Santa Clara, but I think right now she knows that her teammates play a big part in her success," Wallace said. As sisters, the girls understand each other better than other teammates. And they feel comfortable critiquing one another's mistakes. Toni admits it's easy to yell at Anna at practice more than the other girls simply because she's her younger sister. "Sometimes I just want to shout, 'Dammit, Anna' when she gets blocked because I know she can do better than that," Toni said. "But she knows what I mean by it because she understands me." Anna admits some of the "Get up faster, Anna" or "Work harder, Anna" remarks can get frustrating.

"When I've had enough, however, Toni can usually tell because I give her one of my many looks," Anna said.

Despite the bickering, the two are best friends. When asked to describe each other's strengths, each responded with words that have nothing to do with volleyball.

According to Toni, Anna's greatest strengths are her sensitivity and her sense of humor. "She is so nice to everyone and makes me laugh all the time, Toni said. "She is a great friend off the court, but on the court, she means business."

A bit more timid, Anna took time to figure out what to say. Toni laughed at her sister's struggle to think of something good about her. "Toni has great strength, she is so strong out there, it's intimidating," Anna finally says. "But more importantly, she supports me and that is what I like the best. I go to her when I'm stressed out, frustrated, or tired and she helps me get through it."