Webster sisters at different stages in volleyball careers

Had Brooks and Bailey Webster been born just a year or two apart, they might have ended up as college volleyball teammates, giving opponents a double dose of their hard-hitting power game.

Instead, the sisters are at opposite ends of their college volleyball careers. While Brooks, a 6-foot fifth-year senior, is finishing up at Alabama, Bailey, a 6-foot-3 freshman, is just getting started at Texas.

Their five-year age difference kept them on different courts throughout their careers including high school, where Brooks, 23, was an All-Metro player at the Institute of Notre Dame, and Bailey, 18, was the All-Metro Player of the Year two years in a row at St. Paul's.

They have no regrets about not playing against each other this season, although Brooks wonders what it would have been like.

"I think it would have been fun just out of curiosity to see our level of play against each other instead of just talking about it," she said. "It would have been a fun way to go out, but it's OK. You can still go find me in the stands at her games. After this [season], I'll actually have some time."

For now, however, Brooks will concentrate on closing out her college career as well as she can after missing about half of this season because of undergoing arthroscopic undergoing to remove a piece of cartilage from one of her knees. She has 95 kills in the 45 games she has played for Alabama (6-16).

"Our record's not that great right now, but as far as my teammates and the atmosphere, it's been great," she said. "Over the past four years, I haven't had a chance to really enjoy playing in different venues and the different people you encounter and that's one of my things this year. I just wanted to kind of enjoy everything a little more, because this is like the last round."

When Brooks arrived at Alabama, coach Judy Green said she was "nothing but a raw athlete." A basketball player first, Brooks had focused on volleyball for only a few years at IND. She grew so much as a player at Alabama that she played last summer for the U.S. Women's National A-2 Team, winning a bronze medal at the U.S. Open Championships in Minneapolis.

"Nothing rattles her. She's a very composed competitor," Green said. "She's probably in some aspects a misunderstood athlete to some degree, because she's pretty quiet, but the thing that reaches out and grabs everybody is she has the ability to take over a volleyball match pretty much any time she feels like it. I think this year she just hasn't been healthy enough to feel like she can do that."

Brooks, who graduated in May but is earning a second undergraduate degree, said she is considering trying to play volleyball in Europe or somewhere else overseas next year, but she is also looking forward to spending some time watching her sister's career unfold at Texas.

"I want to go to Texas and see what it's like for Bailey, because she's been the one coming to Alabama, coming to my games, and I think that's something that would be really good for her. I'd like to take some time out and be Bailey's support in the background now, because she's been mine for my whole career," said Brooks, who often talks to her sister twice a day and texts even more often.

For Bailey, the Texas volleyball experience started early. She graduated from St. Paul's in December and enrolled at Texas in January, working with the team in the spring and traveling with them on a European tour.

That experience helped her get ready for playing time this fall with the No. 2 Longhorns (17-0). She has 30 kills in 37 games, including five kills in Wednesday's three-game sweep of Texas A&M.

"During the spring is when they focus more on your skills and fundamentals," Bailey said, "which is what I really needed work on, so obviously I was able to grow a lot in that area and learn little things that you don't have time to focus on during the season. Lifting and picking up muscle is a big part of spring, too, and that was a really big help because working out and conditioning will help you jump higher and you'll be stronger, hit harder."

As a senior at St. Paul's, Bailey was one of the most highly recruited players in the country and was named the No. 1 recruit by PrepVolleyball.com. She was also The Baltimore Sun's Female Athlete of the Year. In 2008, she helped the United States junior national team to a gold medal in the NORCECA Women's Continental Championship in Mexico.

Bailey started playing club volleyball earlier than her sister, which gave her a head start, but she also learned a lot watching Brooks play. While Brooks didn't draw attention from college coaches until after her junior season, Bailey was on their radar the summer before her sophomore year.

Bill Murray, who coached Brooks at IND, remembered Bailey being at Brooks' practices a few times.

"Bailey would sit there and do her homework, but I knew she was watching," Murray said. "When practice was over, she would sit there smiling and it was like you know she's processing everything and looking at it and thinking, 'I can do that. I can play like that.'"

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