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Shanks Sisters Lead Auburn Volleyball

Oct. 12, 2007

Courtesy Mike Szvetitz / Staff Writer
Opelika-Auburn News
October 12, 2007

Shanks to Shanks

The first one came against Nicholls State.

It was the third game of the Auburn University volleyball team's second match of the season. Leading 19-12, redshirt freshman Sara Shanks came in off the bench to play setter.

The rest is history. Auburn history. Family history.

Sara Shanks set two of the Tigers' next four points to her older sister, Rachel, in the 30-18 win.

It was the first time Sara had set for Rachel in almost four years - since they played together at Bob Jones High School in Madison.

"I didn't even realize it," Sara said. "It wasn't until someone pointed it out after the match, that I realized what happened. It was pretty neat."

Since, the sisters have combined to help score many more points for the Tigers (10-9, 2-6 SEC) this season.

And tonight, they're hoping it'll happen a few more times, as Auburn hosts rival Alabama (8-9, 5-3) at 7 p.m. in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"It's a very big game," Rachel said. "It's such a huge rivalry. And the way we beat them last year in three games, I'm sure they're going to come in for some revenge.

"So, it's going to be big. There's going to be a lot emotion. I'm excited."

Rachel, Auburn's leader in kills per game (3.51), should be excited. It's her final time to play Alabama as an Auburn Tiger, where she is 2-1 against the Tide.

It's equally as exiting for Sara, who will be taking the court for the first time against Alabama since transferring to the Plains from Tennessee Tech.

"Growing up in the state of Alabama, you learn about the rivalry," Sara said. "And hearing from Rachel over the years on how big it is, I'm really excited to be playing in it.

"As an Auburn player, you want to beat Alabama in everything."

Tonight, she has her chance.

And a win against Alabama would make a special season even more memorable.



"We're very lucky we have the chance to play on the same team," Rachel, 21, said. "I would have never imagined us playing in college together. I feel very lucky to share this with her."

Head coach Laura Farina agrees.

"I've always thought it has been fun to coach sisters," she said. "They know each other's strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else on staff and on the team.

"They do a great job of being good teammates while also being family."

And Farina has seen Rachel excel her entire Auburn career.

The senior outside hitter will go down in the record books as one of the all-time greats in the AU volleyball program.

Rachel is part of the 1,000-1,000 club. She is one of only seven players in AU history to record 1,000 digs and one of only 10 to have 1,000 kills. Even more impressive, the 5-10 hitter is one of only four to do both.

And what has made her so successful?

Well, it's something else she shares with her sister.

"We're both just really competitive," Rachel said. "We want to win at whatever we do."

And it's noticeable to everyone. Once the Shanks step on the floor, playtime is over.

"It's like you take on a different persona when you take to the court," said Rachel, normally "the quiet" one. "You get into a different mode."

And to Sara, 19, who is averaging 8.63 assists per game as the now-starting setter, that's something out of character for her older sister.

"I used to be the loud, talkative one," Sara said. "But now, with this team, it changed.

"That's one of the things that's fun, watch her change."

It's also fun for Farina to see.

"Their parents have done a wonderful job in instilling a great work ethic in them," the coach said. "The only person I see working harder than Rachel is Sara and the only person I see working harder than Sara is Rachel."

And tonight at 7 when the Tigers play Alabama, everyone else can see it, too.

Sara to Rachel. Shanks to Shanks.

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