Competition has always been a constant for Ben and Simon Friesen.
The twin brothers, who graduated from MEI, will put that competitive fire on full display from Thursday to Saturday at the Pacwest Volleyball Provincials, which take place at UFV’s Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
While they may share a last name, they don’t share teammates, schools or jersey colours.
Ben is the third year captain for the hometown UFV Cascades, while Simon is a third year setter for the Capilano Blues.
The boys’ father Ryan Friesen admitted that his sons have been trying to outdo each other for years.
“We had to separate them as early as Grade 2,” he said. “Not because they fought but they were just terribly competitive.”
The duo managed to work together on the MEI Eagles, helping lead the team to a provincial title. Ben said those formative years at MEI helped build his passion for the sport.
“It was really just a big thing at our school,” he said, of the Eagles volleyball program. “[Former coach] Jeff Gamache was really big in influencing everyone just to love the sport.”
Ben said he and his brother participated in gym class games in elementary and then both joined up with the Eagles Grade 8 boys team.
“It was nice to have someone always there to practice and play with,” he said.
Ryan agreed, saying that each boy pushed the other to excel.
“We put them into volleyball as soon as we could – both the school and club teams,” he said. “And they played really well together. They had the chance to practice more than other kids, just because they were always around each other. They got a ton of touches on the ball that way. On the court, it was a bit of a symbiotic relationship because they knew how the other guy moves out there.”
Ben said he enjoyed playing with his brother – at times.
“We have a little bit of telepathy and teamwork when we play together but it was always more aggressive,” he said. “We’re so competitive and at times it can be helpful but sometimes it isn’t – we tended to be at our throats a lot of times. We can always be totally honest with one another, and we were.”
After all the success in high school, the twins went their separate ways. Simon was hoping to catch on with a USports program, and eventually joined the Blues.
Ben elected to stay closer to home and sign with the Cascades, furthering a relationship he had developed with current men’s head coach Kyle Donen when Donen coached him with the Orangeman club volleyball program.
Ben said he and his brother simply wanted to try out playing with other people.
“We were kind of done playing with each other,” he said, chuckling. “I think it’s more fun to play against each other.”
The last two years have swung back and forth between the Cascades and the Blues. UFV won all four meetings in 2016-17, while this year Capilano beat the Cascades in the club’s four meetings. Both Friesen boys have established themselves as top players in the league, with Simon earning a Pacwest first team all-star last season and Ben earning a second team nod.
The Blues receive a first round bye for the provincials, and won’t get underway till Friday. Meanwhile, Ben and the Cascades open on Thursday against the Douglas Royals. The only way the twins will play against each other will either be in the bronze or gold medal game, which would be perfectly fine for their father.
“We’re going to cheer for everyone with the last name Friesen,” he said, laughing. “We just want to see some good volleyball.”
The Pacwest provincials start at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with medals handed out on the final day of competition. Gold medal games for the women occur at 6 p.m. on Saturday, while the men’s final runs at 8 p.m.
The Columbia Bible College Bearcats women’s team opens on Thursday at 1 p.m. against the Blues, while the Cascades women’s team looks to defend their home court starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday against the College of the Rockies Avalanche.
For a full schedule from the tournament, visit pacwestbc.ca.