Tara and Wendy Vinje are two reasons Loyola has staked a claim as the best college volleyball team in Baltimore this fall. All-Metro players while at Loch Raven High, they're also aces in the classroom, share clothes and tastes and, despite three years' difference in age, the resemblance causes them to be taken for 5-foot-11 twins.
Some wonder if the Vinjes haven't taken the togetherness bit a little too far.
Heading into tonight's (7 o'clock) match at Morgan State, the Greyhounds are 17-12, and the record might be better if Tara hadn't followed Wendy and also missed time with an injury.
During preseason practice in August, Wendy sprained an ankle when Tara fell into her. Tara missed a week in September with an ankle sprain suffered in a match against Towson State. Her replacement? Wendy, of course.
"Isn't that crazy?" Wendy said. "Actually, it was a little traumatic."
The real crisis will come in three weeks, when Tara's career at Loyola ends. Along with Marilyn Percoco, another four-year starter, Tara has been an important figure in the Greyhounds' growth from an also-ran into the outfit that is the defending champion in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Tara was the MAAC Player of the Year and MVP of the conference postseason tournament in 1991. She's one of Loyola's top hitters -- averaging a team-high 3.1 kills per game -- its second-best blocker and its strongest, if not most consistent, server.
The excellence extends to the classroom, where Tara was a third-team Academic All-American last year. A mathematics major with a minor in computer science, her cumulative grade-point average for three years is 3.79 on a 4.0 scale.
Tara was a prime prospect after leading Loch Raven to state titles in 1987 and 1988, but academic scholarships in part steered her to Loyola, which was struggling in volleyball. By the time she was a sophomore, Tara was sold on the Greyhounds, and it was then that she began helping in the recruitment of Wendy.
5 "I guess I started wanting Wendy to come here when I was a sophomore," Tara said. "I bought her a Loyola sweat shirt. We share clothes, everything, and I wouldn't know what to do without her. When she came here, Sue [DuMars, the Greyhounds coach] teased me and told me I had better watch out for my position, but there's no friction.
"It could get competitive, but it isn't. What makes it special is that while I'm finishing up here, she's just getting started."
Wendy, a freshman, doesn't start in a lineup that brought four starters back from last year's MAAC champions. Loyola had a 5-6 record on Sept. 16 before its performance stepped up. Ironically, after Tara sprained an ankle against Towson State, her teammates rallied for a five-game victory that avenged an earlier loss.
The Greyhounds also have five-game victories over Loyola and Navy, and they complete their in-state schedule tonight at Morgan State. Local success is something new for Loyola, which was 1-4 against state competition last year.