By Rubin E. Grant
Adelaide Vandevelde knew something was up with her twin daughters when they were babies.
“They crawled early, they climbed out of their crib and they walked early,” Vandevelde said. “We had a feeling they might be agile.”
Ann and Liz Vandevelde weren’t just agile. They were in the early stages of developing into multi-sport athletes.
The twins began with competitive swimming. When they were 8, they competed in a county swim meet and both touched the block at the same time in the butterfly, setting a meet record in the process.
They also played soccer, softball, tennis, volleyball and basketball while growing up.
Now seniors at Mountain Brook High School, the Vandevelde twins are teammates on the Spartans’ volleyball team. Ann is a setter and Liz is a libero. Ann also plays basketball for the Spartans and Liz plays tennis.
“They both had to choose only two sports each because it was such a huge time commitment and became difficult given their academic rigor,” Adelaide Vandevelde said.
The twins are identical and sometimes that creates recognition issues.
“Some of our teachers don’t like it when we’re in the same class because it’s hard to tell us apart,” Ann said with a laugh.
Ann started wearing a headband at Mountain Brook Junior High to help the coaches differentiate who was who.
Mountain Brook coach Vickie Nichols, who’s entering her third season, said it took her a little while to tell the difference.
“Ann wore a headband, so that’s the only way I could identify them,” Nichols said. “Liz plays libero, and both start with ‘L,’ so that helped.
“After I got to know them personality wise – and their personalities are different – I could tell. And their facial features are different, but you’ve got to know them. It’s hard if you don’t.”
Living in a family of four girls that includes older sister Delia and younger sister Frances, the twins are extremely close.
“We hang out together,” Ann said. “When we were younger, we fought more. But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve grown closer.
“I love having a twin sister. You have someone who shares the same feelings you have. And if we’re struggling, we have each other to offer encouragement.”
Despite their closeness, they do have “completely different” personalities, Liz said. Their mom agrees.
“They’re both very outgoing and have never met a stranger, but Liz might be a little more social,” Adelaide Vandevelde said. “Liz is more of an adventurer. She likes going out of the country on trips. Ann prefers to stay at home more.”
Liz spent part of this summer playing tennis.
“I played two really hard tournaments, but my focus right now is on volleyball,” she said.
In the spring, Liz helped the Spartans win their third consecutive Class 7A tennis championship. She won No. 4 singles and teamed with Emma Karcher to win No. 1 doubles.
Last fall, the twins helped Mountain Brook reach the 2018 ASHAA volleyball tournament. Ann recorded 1,242 assists and 455 digs, while Liz had 671 digs.
Nichols is excited about having them back for their senior year.
“As the setter, Ann will be running our offense,” Nichols said. “She’s got experience and we’re working on some things in practice that we’re excited about.
“Liz does a great job as a libero and is doing a great job. She’s our primary passer and is pretty vocal.”
This will probably be the twins’ last season playing together. They are undecided about what college they are going to attend and might choose different schools.
“It would be really weird because all our life we’ve done the same things,” Liz said.
“We’re going to enjoy this last season because it could be the end of us playing together,” Ann said.
The twins would like to go out with a state volleyball championship.
Hoping to End With a Bang
Mountain Brook won three consecutive titles from 2014 to 2016, but McGill-Toolen won the past two championships.
The Spartans open the season Aug. 22, when they play host to McGill-Toolen at 5 p.m. McGill eliminated Mountain Brook in the 7A semifinals in 2017 and 2018.
On Friday and Saturday, the Spartans will compete in the Boddie Tournament at Hoover.
Mountain Brook enters the season ranked No. 1 in 7A and is led by five seniors, including the twins, outside hitter Grace Carr, right side hitter Mary Katherine Fowlkes and reserve setter Kate Amberson. But they know the ranking means little. It’s all about how they perform throughout the season.
“I think we know we’re capable of winning and getting (to be No.1),” Ann said. “But we know we have to prove that.”
“We want it so bad,” Liz added. “The final four is not going to cut it. There’s really no pressure but a desire to succeed.”