SOCHI, Russia - Megan and Nicole McNamara have
tried to compete. Honestly, they have.
For two years, in fact, they’ve been trying to
get into tournaments. Even went all the way to
Australia to do so once, in the spring of 2019,
before the event was canceled due to COVID.
“It was a bummer,” said Nicole, whom you can
identify on the court by her playing right side,
and hitting left-handed. “We had a nice 48
hours. We went out to some restaurants. It was
almost worth it.”
They’re foodies, the twins. If you're looking
for a tour guide to find the best pizza in
Tokyo, the best grub in the Outback, they're the
women for the job. But still: Even if they were
to tour the entire country, hit the best
restaurants, find all the local eats, that’s no
small chunk of change to not play a tournament.
Nothing beats competing, particularly when
you’re as competitive as the McNamaras, who
helped lift a UCLA programme and elevate it into
a two-time NCAA Championship team that is now
one of the most formidable in the country.
So they tried again. Just a few weeks ago. This
time, they wouldn’t have to travel around the
planet to get to a single three-star, as they
attempted to do in Sydney. It wouldn’t be one
tournament, but three. It wouldn’t be somewhere
as foreign as Australia, but their home away
from home: the McNamaras were going to compete
in Cancun, Mexico. Back-to-back-to-back events,
in a country they love, a country they know, a
country in which they’ve enjoyed abundant
Nicole tested positive.
Again, they had done everything they could to
compete. They’d been training, lifting,
preparing in every way. Again, they couldn’t get
out of the country, couldn’t do what they love
to do, what they do for a living.
Again, the McNamaras couldn’t play beach
This week, in Sochi, Russia, that changed. The
McNamaras were cleared for takeoff for the Sochi
four-star. The event was happening – with fans,
For the first time since the Vienna Major in
July of 2019, Megan and Nicole McNmaras were
competing on the World Tour.
“It was the typical pregame butterflies, but we
had some good meetings beforehand and we talked
about how we just want to enjoy the experience
and not work ourselves up about the outcome,”
Nicole said. “We really thrive with the underdog
mindset too so we tried to create that for
ourselves. We haven’t played in a really long
time, all these teams have either been playing
FIVBs or National Tours, so we kind of viewed
ourselves as the underdogs and it definitely
translated to how we played.”
Their first match in nearly two years came
against another pair of sisters, Emi and Mexime
van Driel of the Netherlands. They won, 21-19,
21-12, navigating the qualifier in a matter of
The McNamaras were back in the main draw.
Back where they belong.
“It feels like this is where we belong,” Megan
said. “We’ve worked for so long and I’m
definitely noticing improvements in our game
from the last time we were on tour and being at
work against really strong teams is a really
Those improvements were on full display in their
first main draw match, against Germany’s Laura
Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch. They lost, sure,
but it was close, an 18-21, 20-22 battle against
the reigning World Tour Finals champions.
Against one of the greatest defenders in the
“To be on the court against a really good team
was really great, and to be able to feel like we
were able to hold our own, the scores were tight
and it could have gone either way,” Nicole said.
“It felt good to match with their level. If you
would have told our younger selves that we had a
close game with Ludwig, we would have been
For some, that’s enough. To simply compete well
against an Olympic gold medalist is an
accomplishment in and of itself. But the twins
continued their run, beating Japan’s Miki Ishii
and Megumi Murakami to break pool, then moving
onto the round of 16 with a win over the
Netherlands’ Marleen Van Iersel and Pleun Ypma.
Their run came to an end a short while later,
against fellow Canadians Brandie Wilkerson and
Heather Bansley. But still: a ninth? In their
first event in nearly two years? After being
limited to training indoors for much of that
period? After one setback after the next?
A good restart to the McNamaras’ careers. No
doubt about it.
“It’s just so nice to see familiar faces, feel
that competitive fire inside of us,” Megan said.
“Almost two full years of training, you can play
little scrimmages, but it’s hard to simulate how
you’ll feel in a full tournament. It’s been
amazing just to be back here. So far we’re
really happy with how we played. We played with
strong confidence in the qualifier, got that out
of the way, then lost a close one to a strong
German team. It was tough, but happy with how we
“We’re really trying to focus on the process,
not the outcome, in these tournaments. It’s been
so long so we don’t want to put any external
expectations on ourselves to get this finish. We
just want to come, work on what we’ve been
working on all off-season, see if we can
implement it, see what works.”