Aaron and Jacob Peterson are not unlike most identical twins.
They hang out with the same group of friends, share many of the same interests, played the same sports growing up, and even now can only be distinguished by Aaron’s long flowing locks and Jacob’s slightly heavier build.
So what’s it going to be like next year when – if all goes as planned – they find themselves going to college on opposite coasts of the United States?
“Maybe I’ll miss him a little bit,” Jacob said. “But it'll be a nice break after living with him for 18 years.”
Fremd coach Curt Pinley is in no hurry to see the Petersons leave. The 6-foot-4 seniors have been an integral part of the Vikings’ volleyball program since walking into the gym four years ago.
“They've done a great job for us,” Pinley said. “They’ve put in a lot of work and I think that work is beginning to pay off. We’re fortunate to be able to see that and to be able to be a part of that.
“They're doing a nice job leading us, and hopefully we’ll continue to see that that growth as the season goes on,” their coach added.
Yet is was almost a fluke that the Petersons play volleyball at all. Neither of their parents played – mom Jen was a cheerleader in high school and dad Paul played football – and the boys were pretty much left to their own devices when choosing their after-school activities.
It was not until one of their friends asked Jacob to try out for the team during their freshman year that the thought of playing volleyball occurred to either of them.
“Jacob said, ‘Oh yeah, sure, I'll do it,’” Aaron said. “I said, ‘I don't know, I guess I'll do it.’ I had nothing else to do so I decided just to tag along.”
Jacobs has since made a home at setter, while Aaron is listed as a middle hitter but hits and passes from just about anywhere on the court. The connection between the two is as obvious on the court as off.
"At the start, we didn't have much of a connection,” Jacob said. “But once we started practicing together, playing together every single day, I found out his tendencies and what he likes to do and what he doesn’t like to do.”
“Our connection was probably better when we started than most people because we’re twins, but it’s definitely increased over time,” Aaron said. “We’re like joint players. We play off one another.”
Aaron, who like his brother gravitated toward soccer, hockey and baseball when he was growing up, found the fast pace, the energy and the intensity of volleyball intoxicating.
“Volleyball is a pretty simplistic game,” Aaron said. “There's not a whole lot of things you can do like football when they're running hundreds of plays with tons of people, or baseball where there's tons of positions.
“Volleyball is pretty simple,” he added. “There’s six guys on one side of the court versus six guys on the other side of the court and you got to go out and beat them with simple things.”
And you don’t get much time in between to think about what went right – or wrong – on the previous play.
“You have to be ready at all times,” Jacob said. “Compared to football and their big breaks between each play, the breaks between our plays are 20 seconds max. It's nonstop movement.”
The time to discuss what went right – or wrong – usually comes later.
“We talk after every match,” Jacob said. “We talk over what we could've done better and what we did do well.”
One thing they both plan to do better will begin as soon as they hang up their Fremd jerseys for the final time.
Last year, Aaron and Jacob Peterson helped lead Palatine-based Pipeline 17 Nike to a 17th place finish at the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
This year, as members of Pipeline 18 Nike, they have their sights set much higher. They're already off to a good start, contributing to the club’s 7-2 record and fourth-place finish at the 2018 Boys Winter Volleyball Championships at McCormick Place in mid-January.
“Finishing 17th in the nation has been one of the highlights of my career,” Jacob said. “But this summer, we plan on doing even better.”
Shortly after junior nationals, however, the twins will part ways. Jacob plans to play volleyball at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, while Aaron has his heart set on the University of California San Diego.
Playing volleyball somewhere in between – although thankfully not always at the same time – will be little sister Annalise, a freshman at Fremd, who began her career two years before her brothers began their volleyball sojourn.
So where are mom and dad likely to show up when the Peterson twins take the court – one of the east coast and the other on the west?
“They didn't encourage us to play, they didn’t say anything about it, but now they're really into it and they're big fans,” Aaron said. “I'm sure they'll have no problem going coast to coast to watch volleyball.”
Now the twins just have to find somebody else to talk shop with. Or spend a lot of time on Facebook.