A competitive spirit can push an athlete or team to persevere when the odds are stacked against them. The Squalicum girls’ tennis team of twin sisters Kim and Rachel Dorr showed how far their combined competitiveness can bring them by advancing through tough match-ups to the Class 2A State Girls’ Tennis Championships from May 29-30, at the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle, after an undefeated regular season.
That flawless regular season was rarely in doubt, but there were some close calls. The closest came in a match-up with Sehome’s Taylor Harris and Andrea Zucchi. The twins pulled out a long win 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6), but gave everything they had to earn the win.
“That was the most intense game I’ve ever played in,” Rachel Dorr said in a phone interview. “It was such a long match and I remember saying, ‘If this goes into a third set, I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ My legs were exhausted and cramping, and I said, ‘We need to finish this.’”
The Dorrs and the Sehome duo fought for every point with long rallies. A match so close could turn even the closest duo against each other, as every small error could be the difference between a win and a loss. But Kim and Rachel had the experience to know better than to fall into that trap.
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Their freshman year, the twins were paired up and played at No. 2 doubles for most of the year. Their competitiveness spilled over a bit when they would bicker a little or get down on each other after errors.
Kim and Rachel started doing a handshake between every point to bring them together and reset for the next point. It may not have started as something to mitigate the sisterly fighting, but it worked. The pair stopped fighting as much and started picking each other up during the handshake.
“It’s better than slamming our rackets together,” Kim Dorr said in a phone interview. “Sometimes I fist bump her too hard and I get really into it.”
Rachel and Kim agreed that the handshake can help the duo reset after a tough error and focus on the next point.
“We learned to be calm with each other and recognize when we need to be critical and when to pump each other up,” she said. “We need to give positive feedback with each other. Even when we’re down in points, like against Sehome, we take a step back and realize we’re frustrated and remember why we’re playing. We’re playing to leave it on the court and for each other.”
Squalicum coach Joe O’Brien noticed the change and how it’s helped Kim and Rachel this season.
“They hit well, move well, and they’re right on each other if one makes a mistake,” he said in a phone interview, “but they let it go and get ready for the next one.”
O’Brien coached the twins’ older sister, Danielle, a few years before they were in high school. He met them when they were in fifth grade attending the tennis camp he helps run.
There was another set of twins on the Squalicum team at the time, Anne and Andrea d’Aquino, who made state and helped the Dorrs see where they could go.
“They were our inspiration,” Kim said. “They had really great skills at the net and we aspired to be like them. They were very welcoming, which was cool because we were scared sixth graders.”
Rachel added: “I remember being in fifth grade and we were playing in the middle school division because we wanted to play so bad. I remember playing with them and some of our older sister’s friends, and I looked up to them and that triggered it being something I wanted to do in high school.”
The strong net play of the d’Aquino twins became something the Dorr twins specialize in, as well.
“They put pressure on their opponents by coming forward, and they’re willing to go to the net and control the net,” O’Brien said. “They’re so athletic and quick that they can get up there, and then take the overheads and volleys.”
There are some differences in their play, as O’Brien noted Rachel can be a stronger server, while Kim has one of the best backhands he’s seen.
And the classic question, how do people tell the difference between Kim and Rachel?
“Rachel plays the deuce side and Kim plays the ad side,” O’Brien said, adding that he still has to ask the twins which girl he is talking to between sets.”
The girls admit they do look pretty similar with their hair up and visors on. With their tennis outfits on, even their family has a hard time telling the difference. They’ve joked with other teams about having one of them keep serving if they’re having a really good day, instead of switching, but insist they would never try it.
With the success they’ve had this season and their positive attitudes, the pair won’t need tricks to perform well at state.