Feature written by Concordia sports information student assistant David Youngs
MOORHEAD--- Cobber Volleyball is nothing new to Brianna Carney. The Moorhead native fondly remembers her dad taking her and sister Brook to Concordia games at Memorial Auditorium at an early age and throughout her childhood.
Things have come full circle for Carney, who is in the midst of her senior season on the Cobber Volleyball team. Things have been nothing short of exciting for the 5-11 middle hitter, as she leads the MIAC in solo blocks (19) and is 5th in the conference in blocks per set (1.13).
Successful stats and numbers probably won't be what Brianna remembers most about her senior season though. She'll remember that she was able to share the court with her younger sister Brook Carney - who is a freshman middle hitter on the Cobbers this year.
Even though it's the first time the two have suited up in the maroon and gold together, volleyball has always been a source of bonding for the Carney sisters.
"Growing up we would always play together in the backyard or at our lake cabin," Brianna said. "There was lots of playing in the house, setting each other while watching TV."
Both sisters started playing volleyball competitively around 4th grade, each competing on their grade's Junior Olympic (JO) team. And while the experience got the sisters off the ground running with the sport, their family had to sometimes get creative to physically get them to practice and games.
"Splitting up rides with tournaments on the same weekend was something that happened pretty often," Brianna said. One parent would have to go with Brook while the other would go with me."
The two sisters teamed up on the same side of the net for the first time while in high school for the Moorhead Spuds in 2015-16 when Brianna was a senior and Brook was a freshman. The two helped lead the Spuds to an appearance in the Minnesota State High School Tournament.
Three years down the road when Brook's senior year of high school came along and it was time for her to look at colleges, she didn't have to go far. Having the chance to be on the court with her sister again was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"When I was choosing schools, I chose Concordia because I would have the chance to play volleyball with my sister again, Brook said. "Having her here had a huge impact on my decision."
Last year during the volleyball season when Brook was touring schools, Brianna and her teammates made an extra effort to make sure that Brook would feel at home while looking at Concordia.
"I tried to talk (Concordia) up. During her senior year we would invite her to our open gyms and have her come and practice with us and get to know the other girls and get to know what Cobber Volleyball is all about."
That sense of community is something that Brianna and Brook both enjoy now that they are teammates and peers. The two enjoy seeing each other around campus and have bonded not only as teammates and sisters, but as friends.
"Its awesome, I like to see her throughout the day and know that she's here with me," Brianna said. It's cool that we get to help each other out with homework and go to activities together. It has been fun spending homecoming week with her."
The fact that both sisters are at Concordia now is not only a win for Brianna and Brook, but for the entire Carney family, as their parents are now able to attend all of their home games. All of their aunts and uncles live in town as well, turning Cobber volleyball games into a Carney family reunion.
"I can remember the first tournament this season, Brook was playing with Brianna in the front row and their mom was trying to take a picture of them during the play," recalled Cobber first year head coach Faith Dooley.
Dooley appreciates the dynamic that the Carney sisters bring to the team.
"They have energy for each other and they play for each other," Dooley said. "That's been a huge growing part of our team. Anytime I put them out there, they always have a huge smile on their face when either of them does anything good. I constantly remind the team that's what they have to work towards."
Brianna and Brook's relationship on the court is something that Dooley has made an emphasis to use as a model for the entire team.
"I've used them for a lot of examples to show the team how much love you can have between teammates, " Dooley commented. "Even though they're sisters that's how I want it to be for the entire team."
Both sisters agree that they make each other better out on the court, through the good times and the bad.
"It's nice that we know each other so well because when I'm down or mad at myself she (Brook) knows exactly what to say to get me back up," Brianna said.
As a veteran in the program, Brianna's leadership is valued not only to Brook, but by the rest of the team as well.
"I look up to her skill wise, but also to her leadership. She's got a great positive attitude," Brook said.
Dooley added, "She (Brianna) stays pretty consistent with her attitude and leadership, a lot of the younger kids look up to her."
As the Cobber's close out homecoming week, a week that is immersed in community and family, Brook and Brianna are thankful that their respective paths have brought them together once again. Neither of the sisters could have ever pictured themselves playing college volleyball with each other as kids but are thankful for the unique opportunity that they have.
"It's pretty cool that as sisters we can share the same passion for the sport," Brianna said.
Even though graduation is on the horizon, Brianna won't be saying goodbye to Memorial Auditorium anytime soon. The nursing major has a job lined up in Fargo and plans on coming back frequently to watch Brook play. Until then Brook looks forward to making memories with her sister and cranking out some wins this year for the Cobbers.