Two sisters — or two best friends as they see it — took different routes when collegiate volleyball came calling.
Morgan Douglass, senior libero for the Zags and Spokane, Washington native, chose to stay close to home when she picked GU. But Douglass’ younger sister, Payton Douglass, headed south toward the year-round San Diego sun.
Payton is a freshman libero for the Toreros, the Zags’ West Coast Conference rivals.
The visiting Toreros beat the Zags 3-0 on Thursday in the Martin Centre with a season-high 808 fans looking on.
According to the Douglass sisters’ mother, Missy Bonnett-Douglass, at least 130 tickets were given to people who were in attendance just to see the two sisters play.
“I just love our community and our friends and family who take time out of their busy schedule to come support my girls,” she said.
Both sisters played basketball and volleyball at Mead High School, but they never shared same court.
That never stopped the two from being so close. Morgan said the two have only a few differences.
“She’s more energetic and more free. I am kind of stubborn and not as giggly and hyper,” she said.
Some of the energy was apparent in high school when Payton hung around Morgan’s friends.
“She’d get super annoyed,” she said. “I am like the little sister that would leach off of her friends and I would just act like one of them and be annoying.”
This time around, just seeing each other was an important moment. They reunited outside of the Martin Centre Friday night after the Toreros had practice, the first time they’ve seen each other since August.
“It was like one of those movie scenes on the beach where we just run to each other,” Payton said.
Before last night, the beginning of August was the last time the Douglass sisters were together. Only through the screen of their phones were they able to see one another.
“A lot of our communication is done through Snapchat and lately, she has been at the beach so I question where she is squeezing in the homework,” Morgan said with a hint of jealousy.
This game has been on the schedule for months and from the beginning, some classic trash-talking began between the two.
“Sometimes there was some blood sweat and tears, but for the most part, it was pretty friendly,” Payton said jokingly.
Before the match and during warmups, the two Douglass’ were glancing across the net.
“I kind of winked at her and I told her she needed to be better shagging balls during warmups,” Morgan said.
Morgan started the match at libero and led both teams with 12 digs and had a season-best seven assists. She has 847 digs in her career, and in 2014 she had 419 digs, fifth on Gonzaga’s single-season list.
But it took a while for her sister to get into the match. Payton is stuck behind senior libero Hunter Jennings, who is in San Diego’s top five in career digs.
In the middle of the third set, chants for “Shortstop” (Payton’s nickname) began in the crowd.
A few minutes later, USD head coach Jennifer Petrie motioned for Payton to come into the game. The crowd in attendance for the two sisters erupted in applause.
Even after her pregame talk on being serious during the match, Payton couldn’t help but break out in a wide smile.
For the first time in their playing careers, spanning over 10 years, they were on the same hardwood and it was a moment Morgan said she would never forget, even if she was still focused on the game at hand.
“It’s definitely a proud sister moment for sure and something that we both will remember,” she said.
Two serves and one ace later from Payton and the game finished with the Toreros sweeping the Zags. GU head coach Diane Nelson, she had a match to coach, but she too was happy to see the sisters back together.
“It is cool to see two athletes come out of Spokane and to be on this stage and have the support of the community come in and watch them,” she said.
The support from the community was apparent all the way through the postgame, with upwards of 50 people hanging around after the match.
“It means a lot that all those people took time out of their night to come and support us and it was nice to see so many familiar faces and it was nice having out gym so full today too,” Morgan said.
After the match, Morgan was asked if she would give her sister some pointers like she used to.
“Now she is the enemy, so at this point you chose a different school, so there is only so much I can help,” she said with a smile.
The Zags are heading down to face the Toreros on Nov. 12 in San Diego. Morgan started the friendly trash talk early.
“I know we’re going to beat them in their gym,” she said. “We’re planning on it at least.”
During the postgame, it took about 30 minutes for the sisters to finally get some time to themselves. But even though they were just one on one, 20 people were still there to spectate.
After a long hug, followed by tears from the younger sister, a night filled with nostalgia ended and the Douglass family was whole again.