Sister act powers surging Washington volleyball program

When Capital (Wash.) High School volleyball star Kristyn Ross looks to her team's bench, she has three coaches from which to seek advice. She could try Natalie, the team's head coach, who provides pointed insight on her technique. She could look to Rachael for a motivational boost. Or she could try Katie, another assistant coach, if she needs some help with setting. Different situations dictate whom Ross seeks out, but all three coaches have one thing in common: They're all Zukowski sisters.

According to The Olympian, the newspaper out of Olympia, Washington, Capital High's volleyball program is now being coached entirely by one family of sisters. The team's head coach, Natalie, and junior varsity coach and setting specialist, Katie, both still have their maiden surname. Their oldest sister now goes by the name of Rachael Baird. All three are former Capital volleyball players themselves.

It's easy to see how sibling rivalry could become a problem for the team as different coaches angle to provide advice, but because of the trio's specialized roles -- and their comfort with one another -- they insist that hasn't been an issue.

"We've always got along," Natalie Zukowski told The Olympian. "We've had our tiffs. But we always work it out. As we got older, we got closer."

"Everyone brings a strength," Rachael Baird added.

The Cougars have excelled behind the sister act. Capital is currently undefeated at 6-0, adding the Monarch Challenge title to their early season wins.

Ross is a big part of that success. The team's 5-foot-10 frontline playmaker, Ross once scored 42 kills in a come-from-behind, state playoff victory. This year she continues to dominate, adding 16 kills in the Cougars' straight-sets victory on Wednesday.

Yet Ross credits the team's success to the chemistry within the program. Clearly, the Zukowski sisters have been a big part of that, for genetic reasons alone.

Here's what Natalie Zukowski told The Olympian about how working with her sisters has influenced the direction of the program.

"It's nice to get input and a different perspective," Natalie said. "But to be honest, sometimes I'll shoot down what she says because she's my sister and I know she'll love me anyway."

During practices, Natalie often emphasizes family with her players, telling them to put family first.

"The love of the family will always be there," she tells her players.

Clearly, that sense of family isn't loss on Ross or her teammates.

"I've learned that even if you have the best group of players, it's all about the chemistry," Ross told The Olympian. "I feel that Capital has great chemistry, and we're getting better every day."

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