There are times when Abby Marchewka swears that she and Zoe Lindsey have the ability to play as one rather than as two.
There have been moments this summer when the two Crystal Lake-based Sky High beach volleyball partners have co-existed so effortlessly that it’s difficult to fathom that they’re still only in the first year together.
And yet, somehow, Marchewka and Lindsey have created a bond that blends almost identical competitive natures with a desire to excel in their sport that has allowed the pair to rise through Chicago’s beach volleyball ranks perhaps faster than anyone could have imagined.
The two teammates have put together an impressive streak of summer success that includes a series of wins at Chicago’s North Avenue Beach. They’ve won in Michigan City, Ind., and most impressively the AAU national qualifier June 22 in Palatine, where Marchewka and Lindsey captured the girls 16-and-under championship that earned them a bid to the national championships July 13 and 14 in Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Ask Marchewka and Lindsey independently how they’ve managed to jell so quickly and the responses are remarkably similar. But for the two high school juniors who first started playing together on Sky High’s 14 Black team, the fact they manage to do things alike isn’t overly surprising.
“We’re kind of like the same person,” said Marchewka, who attends Crystal Lake South. “We just both want the same thing.”
That’s a key component to succeeding on the beach, where – unlike indoor volleyball – two players must manage the court, depending on the other to take ownership of her territory. Trust between the two becomes essential, making compatibility a must in an outdoor environment where the final results come down to two individuals rather than an entire team.
But for Lindsey, who plays at McHenry, having more of control over the income was part of the draw to the beach. But it wasn’t until this year when she found a perfect match with Marchewka, who is wired in many of the same ways as Lindsey is, creating the makings of a championship match.
But it takes work.
“You definitely have to communicate more,” Lindsey said.
The two rely on one another to determine what areas of the court are open and to pinpoint how they’ll attack their opponents next. Despite not playing together until this year, Marchewka and Lindsey have established their own means of communicating in a way that has made them a difficult tandem to deal with.
It hasn’t always been perfect. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, words are exchanged and glances are given that, if not dealt with, could lead to problems.
But on the occasion when there are breakdowns, the two teammates have found ways to re-connect, keeping their winning ways in tact.
“We try and keep each other positive, even if we’re down a little (in a match),” Lindsey said. “We’ll just smile at each other, and that will help us get back up.”
Ramon Borrero, who runs Sky High’s beach program, admits that building cohesiveness quickly can often present a challenge. But the first time he saw Marchewka and Lindsey paired together, he sensed that the partnership may be different than others he has seen. The way the teammates have won this season has provided proof that they’ve got something special in place.
“You see those girls and in every point, everything is about winning,” Borrero said. “You can see it in their face. Abby and Zoe both have that kind of personality and they developed that kind of relationship because they share that.
“When I heard they were going to play together, I said, ‘Whoa – that’s going to be something to see.’ ”
But as successful as Marchewka and Lindsey have been, this could only be the beginning of their accent on the beach. Because of the quick turnaround between the qualifier and the national championships on the West Coast, the pair didn’t compete in California.
Instead, they’ll travel this week to Milwaukee for the USA Volleyball Junior Beach Tour Championship, where the two hope to attract the attention of college recruiters. The NCAA introduced sand volleyball as a Division I sport during the 2010-11 season, opening doors for scholarships for players such as Marchewka and Lindsey. Both have been drawn to the sport since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor captured their second of three consecutive gold medals.
But with two years remaining in their high school careers, Marchewka and Lindsey will focus on the present. That will start Saturday in Milwaukee before the pair hopes to carry this year’s success to next summer when they can chase another berth in the AAU national championships.
“This summer has been awesome because it has given us the confidence when we go into tournaments that we are able to win,” Lindsey said. “It kind of gives us the sense that we have nothing to lose.”