Christina and Marlena Cutura share a ride to school, a room, a roof over their heads, and places at the family dinner table.
The sisters also share another thing — tremendous ability on the volleyball court.
Christina, a senior; and Marlena, a sophomore, are two key reasons the Pope John Paul II High School volleyball team is 13-2 this season and apparently primed for another deep run in the Division IV playoffs.
To point — Christina is averaging 18 kills, 10 digs, five aces and three blocks per match. Her younger sister, Marlena, averages 13 kills, 12 digs, two aces and two blocks per match. They are part of a stingy front line that has made the Jaguars’ a force since they arrived at the Slidell-based school last season.
The scary thing is that both are new to the sport. Christina is the only one with any club ball experience, and that came as a guest player for a couple matches. Also, neither played volleyball until they reached high school. That’s because their first love is soccer, and that’s a sport they have played (and excelled at) since they were 4 years old.
Still, the ability in volleyball is apparent. And that has them pondering a future in college on the hard court, as opposed to the grass soccer fields — or maybe both.
“Christina is the epitome’ of a power player,” said PJP coach Danny Tullis, whose coaching dynamic is another reason the Jaguars have reached new heights in his second season at the school. “Christina is ridiculously strong. She can hit equally well with her right hand or her left hand. She’s learned refinement, because at first she would just blast everything. And she didn’t mind hitting it through a player or a wall.”
“Marlena has that good volleyball body — long, lean fast,” Tullis said. “I’m not sure if it comes from soccer, but she reads the ball so well. She’s a special athlete. She finds the ball all the time.”
The sisters said communication and familiarity are key to both their on-court and off-court relationship.
“She’s never knows where she’s supposed to be on the court,” Marlena said jokingly, which drew a playful punch to the biceps from Christina. “No, people would say I’m the thinker and she’s the powerhouse. Our athleticism allowed us to get the ball over the net when we first started, but we started talking about technique and that made a big difference.”
No doubt, they’ve discussed those same things during their familial comings and goings.
“We do everything together,” Christina said. “She comes everywhere with me.”
Tullis said the Cuturas share a special bond and that it’s evident on the court.
“They say things to each other that no one else could say,” Tullis said. “The other day, Christina shanked a few passes and Marlena said ‘Pass the ball.’ The other kids kind of looked and said ‘Did she just say that to Christina?’ And then a few minutes later, Marlena missed a kill and her sister told her to ‘Put the ball down.’ They have that ‘something’ that sisters have. They don’t fight, and they don’t argue. They compete.”
That healthy competitive spirit is one reason hopes are high on Jaguar Drive this year. After reaching the Division IV quarterfinals last year, the Cuturas said they have bigger goals in 2014. They’ll get an idea of the road ahead when they compete in a tournament at Ursuline beginning Friday. They are guaranteed six matches — one each against St. Joseph’s, St. Thomas More, E.D. White, St. Louis, Notre Dame, and Teurlings.
“A while back, if we go to that tournament, you’re probably looking at 0 and 6,” Tullis said. “Hopefully, that’s not the case now.”
“We’re more experienced this year,” Marlena said. “More kids are playing club this summer; the freshman are good. It’s going to be nice.”
As they continue to strive for playoff success, the Cuturas can also debate who the better volleyball player is.
“Me,” they said simultaneously.
“We have our different strengths,” Christina said.
“I think I’m a better passer and she’s the better hitter,” Marlena said, finishing her sister’s thought. “But that’s not to say we both can’t do it. I think we’re pretty much well-rounded.”