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News Family Weekend Special
All in the family for Abernathy

RAJA THIRU/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Abernathy family, with Jennifer, left, Theresa, her mother, and Gabrielle, her sister, pose for a picture after California defeated Arizona Saturday, Oct. 4. Gabrielle plays for California, while Jennifer plays for Arizona.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 10, 2003

A good lead to a story about how UA volleyball player Jennifer Abernathy and her sister Gabrielle now play against each other as Pacific 10 Conference rivals would be detailing one of their more intense fights growing up.

Except they never did.

"That's just the way I raised my kids," said their mother, Theresa. "In my house, fighting was just never allowed - not even horseplay. Horseplay leads to fighting and stuff like that.

Even when they are horseplaying, they say, ėMom, we're just playing.‰ I say, ėThat's fine, I don't care.‰ Eventually somebody's going to get mad. They just never fought. It was pretty awesome."

Last Saturday, the sisters played against each other for the first time in college.

Jennifer, an outside hitter, is a true sophomore, while Gabrielle is a junior outside hitter who redshirted last year to focus on academics. Gabrielle's California Golden Bears won, 3-0.

"I played my sister before, so it wasn't really a big deal," Jennifer said. "I think regardless of who you're playing, you always want to win, so sometimes I think I forgot about her, but it makes me a little more competitive. You always want to beat your sibling."

Theresa, who attended the UA's matches against the Bay Area schools last weekend, is no ordinary volleyball parent. She has coached high school, junior college and club volleyball, and coached the UA volleyball camp after playing college volleyball at Kendall College in Evanston, Ill., near Northwestern. She was excited to have two daughters playing in the Pac-10, considered the best women's volleyball conference in the country.

"It's pretty awesome to have two girls to play at this high a caliber," Theresa said. "It's an awesome feeling to sit here and watch them both."

Theresa, who wore the neutral navy rather than any Arizona red or Cal yellow to the match, gave Jennifer and Gabrielle her athletic genes, getting both of them involved in the sport.

"I always played volleyball - played in high school, I played in college and when I moved to California, I started coaching," she said. "When Jennifer was two and Gabrielle was four, they were coming with me to all the tournaments, and when I started playing doubles, they were coming to matches. So getting them into it was kind of a no-brainer. They had pretty much a court sense."

Jennifer, who had a season-high 18 kills against No. 20 Santa Clara and 17 kills against No. 4 Stanford the night before the Cal match, said her mother is always there to give advice.

"My mom started us in volleyball. She's a real good coach," Jennifer said. "If we ever think we need help on something, we just go to her. She is always there to back us up. She's always been there."

Though they went to the same high school, Deer Valley in Antioch, Calif., Jennifer said Gabrielle wasn't upset that she joined up with a Pac-10 rival. Jennifer admitted that they never really wanted to go to the same university.

"We both knew we wanted to play in the Pac-10. It was just a matter of where I was going to go," she said.

Gabrielle led the Bears in kills with 288 as a sophomore.

As for the UA volleyball team (6-9, 0-5 Pac-10), the preseason No. 10 that has lost five straight, Theresa said that the team made up mostly of freshman and sophomores is losing because of youthful mistakes.

"What's amazing to me is just how much talent they have," Theresa said. "Just from my years of coaching experience, the struggles that they're having right now are because truly they are a young team. They need a senior - a couple seniors out there. All these teams that they're losing to, they always have a couple, if not three or four seniors out there."

Still, Theresa does believe that the talented Wildcats will snap out of their slump before the season ends.

"Even though they're missing a lot of their jump serves, they're doing it," Theresa said. "By the end of the season, they‰ll have it together. I think by the end of the season, a lot of their young mistakes will be gone."

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