By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
The Kanii family has provided New Albany coach Bob Dusch with two points out of one household.
In twins Erin and Marin Kanii, Dusch has two built-in points many nights. The sisters also cause him a dilemma.
“In 36 years of being a coach, I’ve never asked my [No.] 1 and 2 players, ‘Who wants to be No. 1 today?’ They’re that close on the tennis court,” Dusch said.
Erin and Marin Kanii are as similar as most twins. They both play the violin in the New Albany orchestra (first and second chair), they both love to snowboard and their tennis games are eerily similar.
However, they do approach the competition for the Bulldogs’ No. 1 singles spot with differing philosophies.
“We play every day with each other,” Erin Kanii said. “I don’t mind either way. I think we’re both the same ability. If we can win as a team, that would be best for all of us.”
“I would be disappointed if we would have been playing No. 2 for the whole season,” Marin said. “We have been competitive with each other for a while. We’ve been playing tennis together for a long time. But yeah, there is a rivalry between us.”
With so many strong No. 1 players in Southern Indiana — Floyd Central’s Olivia Boesing, Silver Creek’s Kat Hebble, Jeffersonville’s Morgan Reilly and Providence’s Jacqueline Hollkamp, to name a few — competing at No. 2 singles has its advantages.
Neither sister would hear of taking the easy road.
“I don’t care if I lose,” Erin said. “I want to play a great player. I don’t want to play a weaker person just because I want to win. I want to play a stronger person so I can get better.”
“I would rather play better players so I can improve myself,” Marin said. “I would rather play No. 1 the whole time.”
The Kanii twins became two of the area’s best tennis players through hard work. And as much as they love music, they prefer to be on the tennis court whenever possible.
The fact that they had each other to play with every day also has been a major factor in their ascent to the top of the New Albany program.
“It’s really nice that I have a partner I can hit with all year long,” Marin said. “I think it’s really helpful. Still, I feel like it’s a disadvantage sometimes for us, but we get used to [playing one style]. It is a good thing we can play each other all year long.”
“Not many people can find a person to hit with every single day and I have a twin sister that’s the same ability,” Erin said. “It’s a perfect opportunity. Every day we can hit.”
When Erin says “every single day,” that’s what she means. During Spring Break, Dusch ordered his team to take the day off during one particular 32-degree day. Later that day, he found the Kaniis out on the courts working at their games.
“The problem I have is that when we get an off-day, they won’t take an off-day,” Dusch said. “When you go six days a week or so, you need a day off. But they’re workaholics.”
Erin and Marin began competing as a doubles pair as freshmen. They were an immediate success, earning All-Hoosier Hills Conference honors as freshmen.
With Erin and Marin providing two points at singles instead of one as a doubles pair, the move had to be made.
“I would love to have that option, but the way we are now, I just can’t,” Dusch said. “They’re just too valuable at one and two [singles].”
“I miss it a lot,” Erin said. “We’re sisters and we understand each other a lot more than just a partner or friend. I enjoy playing doubles. I don’t know, I might like it better.”
True to form, the Kaniis were willing to switch to singles to help the Bulldogs achieve their goals. First among those is to win their 21st consecutive sectional title on May 17.
“We want to help our team,” Erin said. “Two of five [potential points] is pretty big. If my sister and I can win, that helps our teams [and] that’s our goal. Of course, our goal is to win the sectional, as always. Our dream has been to win the regional. That will be really tough because Floyd Central is really good, but that’s our goal, I think.”
The twins will graduate in the spring and head off to Ball State University, where they’ll study telecommunications in the fall.
In his long tenure at New Albany, Dusch will be as sad as he’s ever been to see two players leave the program.
“They’re the most conscientious, hard-working kids I’ve dealt with in a long time,” he said. “No matter what the situation is, they both have smiles on their faces. They’re both delights to work with. I say every year that I’m going to miss my seniors, but these two I can say it from the bottom of my heart. It’s situations like this that make coaching fun.”