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Life in the back row: Orr sisters cherishing final year together

John M. Steiner / The Sun Jamestown sisters McKayla and Meghan Orr have played in the back row together for the past two years. McKayla, a senior, was an all-state libero as a sophomore, and Meghan, a sophomore, was selected to the Class A all-state touranment team last season.

In her only varsity match as an eighth-grader, Meghan Orr looked nervous.

Right by her side was her sister McKayla.

“I looked over at her and told her to calm down,” McKayla recalled. “She can rely on me. I always know where she’s at on the court.”

The Jamestown duo makes up two-thirds of one of the state’s most dynamic back rows. The Orrs lead the Blue Jays into the West Region tournament, which starts today at the JHS gym with the top-seeded host team taking on No. 8 Mandan at 2 p.m.

The Blue Jays (30-3) have built an impressive record on the strength of a defense that has shown up in nearly every match this season.

But life in the back row isn’t always perfect. And as is often the case with sisters, McKayla — a senior — often finds herself coming down hard on Meghan, a sophomore.

“She gets on me a lot,” Meghan said. “But I’m glad she does because then I pull it together and get it done. It does get really frustrating, but again, I’m glad.”

McKayla admits to holding her sister to a high standard, even after practice.

“Sometimes, it even goes home and she gets mad at me,” McKayla said. “We’re sisters and we get over it.”

Make no mistake about it, Meghan expresses no regret. The 5-footer looks up to her sister, both literally and figuratively.

“My sister has always been my role model and I always try to work my hardest to be like her,” Meghan said. “I’m excited to be able to play with her.

“She’s always there for me and she knows what’s right, so I listen to her.”

McKayla has the resume, that’s for sure. She’s a three-year starter at libero, earning all-state honors as a sophomore.

“McKayla has earned a lot of respect around here as a volleyball player,” Jamestown coach Sara Hegerle said. “I think Meghan uses her as a role model for what she wants to be like when she gets older.”

Hegerle hasn’t seen much of any griping between the two, but does notice McKayla watching over her younger sister.

“If Meghan gets rattled, the first person to calm her down is McKayla,” Hegerle said. “I would guess she holds her accountable as big sisters should do.”

The difference in their personalities is obvious, Hegerle said, and that makes each sister their own person.

“McKayla’s more feisty; you don’t wanna make McKayla mad,” Hegerle said. “Meghan’s more of a calming player. What a treat it is to coach those two. We’re certainly gonna miss McKayla. We’re looking forward to what Meghan can do once McKayla’s gone.”

That’s certainly not something Meghan openly welcomes, saying the thought of McKayla graduating makes her sad. Still, Hegerle thinks it could give Meghan a chance to shine.

“I think she’ll have a hard time right away,” Hegerle said. “She’s used to McKayla being there with her. But then she’ll also be able to grow into her own player. She’s trying now, but at the same time, she’s in a shadow.”

Junior Julina Niemeier is the third member of the back row. When McKayla graduates, her libero jersey will be up for grabs.

And to no surprise, McKayla takes a business approach to next year’s friendly competition.

“I hope (Meghan) can wear my jersey, but Julina’s also a very good back-row specialist,” McKayla said. “They’ll battle it out. I’m excited to see what they bring next year.”

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or