After never playing volleyball competitively together at any level, the Lyman sisters of Idaho State have taken the floor this season for the Bengals as they look to contend for a conference championship.
Tressa is the reigning Big Sky MVP, an honor she earned after helping lead the Bengals to the regular season conference title with 404 kills, 34 aces and 321 digs.
The redshirt senior was named All-Conference Honorable Mention her freshman season, and First Team the past two years.
Enter Riley, four years younger than Tressa, who was named the 2015 Utah High School Female Athlete of the Year after leading Enterprise High School volleyball to back-to-back state titles.
Her team also won basketball during her junior year, while individually she set a state record in the 300 meter hurdles for the 2A classification, winning state in 2013 and 2014.
You could say the sisters have some talent.
For older sister Tressa, who many know as one of the top players in ISU volleyball history, the praise for Riley is high.
“I expected it to just be a good time, obviously, because I have my sister here with me. She is such a good athlete. When she was in high school I was like ‘dang, she’s way better than I was’. She pushes me every day to be better. I expected her to be good and she’s doing it.”
Riley credits being active in club volleyball throughout high school as a key factor in her personal progression.
Even with all the accolades following her to ISU, for Riley it was still not a shoe-in for automatic playing time out of the gate, although with hard work, the younger Lyman has earned her spot on the floor in plenty of matches.
“I didn’t expect [immediate playing time] at all. Came in wanting to work hard and whatever happens, happens. Whoever deserves to be on the court is going to be on the court.”
Playing together on the same team is not the only change for the sisters, with the living arrangement this year a little different than they are used to as well.
“We share a room actually,” said Tressa. “We’re literal roommates. We’ve never shared a room.”
When asked what the experience of sharing the room was, the joking nature of the two came out.
“It’s great actually,” said Riley.
“It’s been good, just gotta put up with Riley’s mess,” joked Tressa.
As sisters do, the non-serious back and forth continued.
“You come home and I clean the room,” stated Riley. “I’m like the housewife.”
The conversation was a reminder of how there is more to the student-athlete than just school and sports. These are everyday college students who love to have fun.
There is no better example of this than the Lyman sisters.
Not many get to play a sport collegiately with their sibling, an opportunity the the sisters are grateful for.
“I don’t really think it changes things on the court,” said Tressa. “Definitely off the court it’s fun to hang out with her and have fun with her. For four years now I have been up here with no family, so it’s been great having her here.”
As a freshman, Riley says her older sister has helped make the transition into college smooth.
“If I have questions about anything I can ask T. If I’m worried about something I can always go to her and get advice from someone that has been there before.”
The parents, not surprisingly, were big fans of the two coming together on the court at ISU.
“From right when I started being recruited, dad said, ‘you should go to Idaho with Tressa, it would be so much fun’,” Riley recalled.
The family has taken advantage of the opportunity to see both girls play together on multiple occasions already.
“They have been to a lot of stuff so far,” said Tressa. “They came to Utah and USC, so that was fun. We have a lot of family in California, so they came and it was like a big family reunion. It makes it a lot less travel going to one place rather than two.”
Off the court, plenty of activities keep the duo busy.
“We love going on drives, hikes, walks, eating ice cream, watching movies, quoting movies, just whatever,” said Tressa.
Tressa (22) is the oldest of five siblings. The sisters are Anden (20), Riley (18) and Shelby (16). Rusten (10) is the younger brother.
The oldest has received plenty of honors for her academic and athletic abilities, although at the end of the day she is as much of a team player as anyone.
“I think it doesn’t really matter what happens as long as the team wins,” said Tressa. “That’s really more where my focus is. Way more important to have a team championship than anything individual.”
That mindset has remained intact under the leadership of first year head coach Rick Reynolds.
“He has pushed us a lot and made us think about things in different ways,” said Tressa. “We look at things in a new way, which at first made us a little uncomfortable, but now it’s all coming together.”
Plenty of work still remains for the Bengals in the 2015 season, with the team goal a Big Sky Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, something which last happened in 2013 at Hawaii.
Once the campaign is over a new task will be on the table, trying to find a way to fill in the gaps that will be created when the productivity of Tressa is graduated following this year.
“Everyone on the team is going to be working at that together, practicing together. It’s gonna be a team effort filling Tressa’s shoes,” said Riley, noting that she doesn’t feel direct pressure of having to fill the shoes herself.
For sisters who were practically born holding a volleyball, even having a net in the backyard connected from the house to a tree, the 2015 season at ISU offers the opportunity to shine on a bigger stage.
Don’t be surprised if they take full advantage of the opportunity. It’s what the Lymans do.