Monday, November 29, 2021

Beach volleyball buds form strong bond

Gabby Walker and Maggie Boyd are both the fiercest of rivals and closest of teammates.

Walker, an outside hitter from Flower Mound High School, has committed to USC next year on scholarship, and Boyd, an outside hitter from Marcus High School, is going to UCLA on a full ride as well.

Interestingly, both athletes are headed to their respective institutions on beach volleyball scholarships, based on their remarkable career on the sand.

Walker and Boyd have won seven national championships in the sport of beach volleyball, competed together in nearly 100 tournaments and never miss practice, whether there is sweltering heat or pouring rain.

Walker, 17, said she realized the first time she paired up with Boyd that together, they could be really special.

“We played our first beach tournament together on Maggie’s 12th birthday (I was 11), but we were on the same 12’s indoor team before this tournament,” Walker said. “I realized it during our first tournament. We were just such good friends—it just felt like we clicked well together.”

Walker said that a number of things have impressed her about Boyd’s ability over the last several years.

“She is great at defense and has a great arm swing,” Walker said. “She has a positive attitude as well. She also has an amazing top spin jump serve.”

The Flower Mound outside hitter said competing against Boyd in high school volleyball is a kind of mixed bag for her.

“It is a bitter sweet sort of thing,” Walker said. “I love to compete and play volleyball, but it’s hard seeing my best friend on the other side of the net. When we do play against each other, we just try to win and do our best, but at the end of the day, we are still friends.”

Flower Mound coach Jamie Siegel said playing beach volleyball has helped Walker to read and see the whole court offensively and defensively, and said that when Flower Mound and Marcus square off, it is fun to watch.

“Gabby is great at focusing in on the task at hand, whatever the task may be,” Siegel said. “It is so fun to see them play against each other since they are both good players.”

Marcus coach Danielle Barker agrees with Siegel, saying that while it is a friendly rivalry, both young ladies play with a winning spirit.

“Both girls are very competitive and have always played at a high level on big stages all the time,” Barker said. “So they handle the rivalry atmosphere very well. It is fun to see them play each other, but you can tell both Maggie and Gabby want their teams to be successful and will do whatever it takes.”

On the sand, Walker said two of the best things that she and Boyd have going for them is the way that they understand each other and how well they get along.

“I feel that our success is from trusting each other so much,” Walker said. “I know she’s got my back and I’ve got hers. I also think it helps that we don’t really get mad at each other. We understand mistakes are going to happen and we just remember to focus on the next point.”

For Boyd, 17, whom Barker described as someone who “reads the game so well on both the offensive and defensive sides,” and “can also cover a lot of court on defense,” the reason for the duo’s success in beach volleyball boils down to the same things, but also their composure.

“We have so much team chemistry,” Boyd said. “We know where each other are going to be on the court. I also feel like we are able to stay calm in high pressure situations and trust each other.”

Boyd said it did not take long for her, either, to recognize that she and Walker would make a formidable team.

“The first time we played together, I knew I loved having her as a partner,” Boyd said. “But it wasn’t till after we got third at our first national championship that I knew we would have success in the future.”

Boyd said the objective moving forward is mainly to continue to improve as a team.

“We only have one year left in juniors, so we are going to keep working hard and see what we can accomplish,” Boyd said. “I’m sure we will also play in some big adult tournaments so we can challenge ourselves.”

Walker said she “would love to win another national championship.”

It is interesting that after playing as rivals in high school volleyball, Boyd and Walker would choose rival programs for college as well, and while both girls said that was on their mind, they ultimately had to make their own decisions.

“We definitely thought about and dreamed of playing together at the college level,” Boyd said. “But we both just had to decide what was best for us. It worked out well, and we both ended up at our dream schools.”

So what about the Olympics? Are they within grasp in the not-so- distant-future?

Their coaches seem to think it is a distinct possibility.

“It’s funny,” Siegel said. “I have asked her (Walker) this before. I think it could be a possibility, and it would be a lot of fun to see it play out.”

Barker said she believes that both girls are headed in that direction as they continue to compete.

“If we don’t see them together as a team at the Olympics, we will see their teams there because of the competitiveness, drive and grit that these two have,” Barker said. “They have all the intangible traits needed to succeed and will only get better with time and experience.”

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