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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A tall order they could fulfill

Alexis and Emma (right) Olgard lead Mead into the state volleyball playoffs in hope of winning a fifth straight title. 
 (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

With her naturally powerful swing, Alexis Olgard connects on a perfect set from Karyn Mockel that evades her blocker and screams down the left sideline.

Emma Olgard, who stands at 6-foot-3 across the net from 6-5 Alexis during a Mead Panthers volleyball practice on Tuesday afternoon, turns and gives Alexis a playful shove under the net.

The sisters – one a purely gifted sophomore, and the other, a late-blossoming senior – are just part of the equation that has made the Panthers almost untouchable in the Greater Spokane League this season. With weapons like Alexis and Emma, who is off to play for the University of Montana next year, it’s no wonder why there is a load of hype following the Panthers to the State 4A tournament this weekend.

The latest installment in a lineage of siblings to play for Mead coach Judy Kight, which includes quick-swinging sisters Amanda and Madison Dahlstrom this season, the Olgards will undoubtedly play a major role in the Panthers’ defense of four consecutive state titles.

Top-ranked Mead is again not only favored to win the tournament, but trying to play its way into the history books and bring home the fifth straight championship trophy – a feat that has not been accomplished in any classification in Washington state volleyball history.

“It makes me want to work even harder to get it again and prove to everyone, yeah, we are good,” said Alexis.

Not that anyone has been fooled.

“It’s not just because we have a couple of good athletes,” added Emma, “it’s the whole team. (Our team) may not even be the best athletes out there, but we have this common goal and desire and we are all willing to work for it.”

Emma and Alexis, who finish one another’s sentences more often than not, have been working at it since junior high.

They dabbled in “every sport imaginable growing up,” Emma said, admitting their parents made them, but enjoyed dance and volleyball the most. Alexis also plays varsity basketball.

“Yeah, we weren’t really into everything our parents had us do,” Emma confessed. “We would leap up and down the gym floors and twirl and dance around, just not even paying attention.”

“And sit and pick the weeds in the field during softball,” Alexis added.

Emma began to put more time into volleyball after playing in seventh grade, and Alexis followed suit after watching her older sister play. What the sisters seem to love most, besides being teammates, is pushing one another.

“When she blocks me,” said Alexis, “I just want to get a kill past her the next time.”

They are also one another’s biggest fans.

Emma willingly calls Alexis the natural athlete, while Alexis champions Emma’s 4.0 grade-point average and success in the classroom.

“I remember being like, ‘Mom, please don’t let her play volleyball, she’s going to be better than me,’ said Emma, smiling at Alexis. “You’d think that would make me like, ‘Man, I hate my sister,’ but no – she deserves everything she gets.”

This weekend, they’ll play on the same court as Panthers one last time. Alexis got a taste of what life without her sister next to her on the court would be like when Emma was sick last week and missed practice.

For the first time when talking about their experience playing together, they aren’t smiling.

“Right now, it’s kind of sad,” Emma said. “It’s always been exciting, and (state) still is, but tomorrow is our last practice together at Mead. It’s going to be so weird, and hard, not playing with each other next year.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though,” she added. “It’s been the most wonderful thing.”