Prep Volleyball

Dike-New Hartford's Petersen twins are second-generation superstars

State volleyball: Baylee and Sydney have enhanced the legacy of family, school

Baylee (left) and Sydney Petersen of Dike-New Hartford. Photographed last Wednesday in the high school gymnasium. (Rebec
Baylee (left) and Sydney Petersen of Dike-New Hartford. Photographed last Wednesday in the high school gymnasium. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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DIKE — They shared a womb. They shared a room.

And they’ve thrived on the big stage, under the bright lights of the U.S. Cellular Center.

Yes, Baylee and Sydney Petersen are a dual legacy to one of the biggest names in Iowa volleyball (both past and present). But they’ve carved their own niche at the school of which their mother put on the map a generation ago.

“It’s a really cool situation,” said their mom, Bobbi Petersen, who — as Bobbi Becker — led Dike to its first state championship, in 1985. “They are fortunate to be part of Dike-New Hartford volleyball.”

 
Maybe it’s tired cliche, but Baylee and Sydney have been around volleyball literally their entire lives. Bobbi is in her 18th season as the head coach at the University of Northern Iowa, another program that she helped elevate as a player after her time at Dike.

“They’ve had the benefit of watching UNI since Day 1,” said DNH Coach Diane Harms. “So they have a deep understanding of the game. They’re very fundamentally sound and they have very good instincts and fundamentals.

“They understand what they need to do to be successful.”

The elder of the twins by five minutes, Baylee is a 5-foot-7 outside hitter who averages 3.79 kills and 2.81 digs per set. At 5-5, Sydney is a dynamo of a libero, posting 4.08 digs per set and anchoring the Wolverines’ back line.

They came into the world in fragile fashion, eight weeks premature. Baylee weighed a little more than 4 pounds, Sydney less than 3. Their first five weeks were spent in neonatal intensive care.

Fraternal twins, Baylee and Sydney are anything but identical.

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“They couldn’t be more opposite,” Bobbi said. “Syndey wears her emotions on her sleeve. She’s more of a worrier. Baylee easily brushes things off. She doesn’t let much bother her. It makes for some interesting conversations.”

Some of those conversations occur on the court when the ball drops between them, a rare occurrence.

“There will be a look and a couple words,” Harms said. “It’s kind of amusing.”

“We have our days,” Baylee said. “We’re sisters, so we’re going to fight. But in the end, we usually meet in the middle.”

Like a setter, the libero is sort of a team pilot. Sydney takes that role to heart.

“I have to bring a lot of energy,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re up or down by a lot. You have to be a strong leader, and be calm in a tight situation. Nothing hits the floor, no matter what.”

 
The game has changed tremendously in the past generation. Bobbi started playing as a freshman. Dike was the small-school runner-up in 1983 and 1984, then took the final step when she was a senior.

Since then, the game has gotten faster. Rally scoring began and the libero was introduced. Kids started playing at a younger age, and club teams became the rage.

Through it all, Dike — and eventually Dike-New Hartford — remained a powerhouse. The program is making its 28th state appearance this week; the top-ranked Wolverines (47-3) face Wapsie Valley (21-15) in a Class 2A quarterfinal at 2 p.m. Wednesday. And the school has won a dozen state championships.

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The twins were freshmen when the Wolverines were at an all-time peak, in 2014. That team had three seniors bound for Division-I programs and won 109 consecutive matches against Iowa competition.

Still, they made their mark immediately. Sydney earned the libero spot, and Baylee won the competition for right-side hitter. The Wolverines claimed the 2A championship in 2014, lost to Sumner-Fredericksburg in the state semifinals in 2015, then moved up to 3A and won another title last year.

Volleyball isn’t the sole reason Bobbi moved back to Dike with husband Duane (a former UNI football player) not long after their college days were over. They live in the house in which Bobbi grew up, on the west end of town. The twins shared a bedroom until they were about 10, then split into separate living quarters.

 
“The volleyball part, obviously, is awesome at Dike,” said Bobbi, a charter inductee of the IGHSAU volleyball hall of fame in 1998. “But they also get to be in band and chorus and plays at a small school. It allows them to grow up and be well-rounded individuals.”

Both girls compete in basketball and track and are members of the DNH band. Baylee plays alto saxophone, Sydney the clarinet.

This week likely will be the last time the twins play together in interscholastic competition. Sydney committed to play at the University of Texas next year; Baylee will join her mom at UNI.

“I always wanted to be in the Final Four and play at the highest level I can,” Sydney said. “It was awkward at first telling Mom, but I think she knew.

“I’m a very competitive person. I would have regretted not giving this a try.”

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Baylee said, “I knew she wanted to play at a really high level. It’s going to be good for her to go down there and see what she can do. “It’s going to be really hard not having her around.”

This duo will depart soon and go their own ways, but the Becker/Petersen dynasty isn’t nearly over at DNH. There’s another set of twins coming; Jadyn and Payton are sixth-graders.

They’re probably going to be bigger than Baylee and Sydney. Better?

“I don’t know,” Sydney said. “When I play pepper with them and see what they can do, sometimes I just say, ‘Wow.’”

State volleyball previews

Class 5A

Class 4A

Class 3A

Class 2A

Class 1A

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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