When Josie and Kearley Abbott walk onto the sand -- uniforms and Oakley sunglasses matching perfectly -- it's difficult to distinguish the beach volleyball teammates.
During the final of Volleyball Canada's Eastern Canadian Beach Volleyball Championships at Ashbridges Bay Beach in Toronto last weekend, the referee made one of the 5-10 twins wear tape on her jersey in order to identify who was serving. That didn't stop the 15-year-old sisters from coming from behind to take gold over an Ontario duo in the under-16 age category, 18-21, 21-18, 15-10.
"We were talking in between each set and we were told to just go out there and give it our best game," said Josie. "And know that we fought to the end no matter what the result was... And then, when we did (force a third set), we were pretty excited. We just wanted to keep rolling and by then we got in a rhythm."
This is the first national title at the under-16 level for a Manitoba team since Taylor Pischke and Rachel Cockrell won in 2008. There were 23 teams competing in their age group and the sisters went undefeated with 11 straight wins.
"I think we kind of knew what each other wanted," said Josie. "So sometimes, like when we were going to do a backset or something, we knew where each other likes to have it. And we communicated well, so when something was going wrong we could be completely honest with each other."
The two girls attend St. Mary's Academy and only began their training on the beach about seven weeks ago. They credit their early success to their unique relationship on and off the beach.
"I think it gives us a little bit of an edge," said Kearley, on sharing the court with Josie.
"We've been with each other so much, so we understand what each other do well and it also kind of plays mind games with the other team, with who they're going to serve to... I prefer to be matching and identical because then the other team has no idea, but I understand that they needed to identify us."
Like most volleyball players, the Abbotts started playing the sport on the indoor courts. They've been playing since Grade 8. This summer, their curiosity led them to try out the beach game.
Beach volleyball is comprised of only two players on the court rather than the traditionally six and puts an emphasis on communication to go along with the rigorous movement in the sand. Kearley said other than having to be mindful of the outdoor conditions, such as where the sun is and the direction the wind is blowing, the transition was seamless.
It also doesn't hurt that the pair is coached by former indoor Olympian and beach professional, Wanda Guenette. Guenette, a recent Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inductee, is the head coach at the High Line Beach Volleyball club where the sisters train.
"I think we learned a lot about beach (volleyball)," said Josie. "I think we've just improved in all aspects of the game, like passing and setting. (Guenette) taught us how to set."