For first-year Bowie High School tennis coach Michael Fehn, the Simmons sisters, Torri and Maddi, are virtually interchangeable.
The identical twins — Torri's older than Maddi by two minutes — have alternated playing first and second singles throughout the season because their skill sets are versatile enough to keep the lineup fluid, Fehn said.
“Usually I can't tell them apart,” Fehn said with a laugh. “That's why I said they're interchangeable. People on the team, because they've known them, can tell them apart, but I'm still sometimes like, 'Which one are you?'”
It's a fairly common occurrence for the Simmons sisters, who started playing tennis seriously in the seventh grade.
“He [mixes us up] about every day. It's kind of hard for him,” Maddi said. “It's hard for everyone, but it's also his first year, so we'll give him a pass. Next year, though.”
So far this season, the only loss by either of the sisters came when Torri fell to Eleanor Roosevelt's Lydia Carter in the only match the Bulldogs lost as a team. Other than that, whether playing first or second singles, Torri and Maddi have been the steady presence Bowie has needed to turn in a standout season.
“If I ask them to help out another kid, tutor them or hit balls during practice, they're really helpful about it,” Fehn said. “They have great sportsmanship and if I ask them to sit once or twice so other teammates can play, they're fine with it. They're really team players.”
While the pair has spent the majority of Bowie's regular season playing singles, they're leaning heavily toward playing together as a doubles team once the postseason tournaments roll around.
“It has benefited both of us both greatly,” Maddi said of alternating first and second singles. “It's a good idea to switch it up. It gives us different perspective on the various players throughout the county.”
Last year, they played doubles together and won the district and placed third at regionals. This season, the pair of juniors are hopeful that they'll be able to reach the state tournament.
“It has its pros and cons,” Torri said of playing doubles with her identical twin. “It's a little bit harder because there's so much off-court interaction that we have to make sure we really stay focused on the court. But I also think it's really intimidating for our opponents.”
Maddi agreed that the switch from singles to doubles at season's end doesn't seem as daunting a move as many would think.
“We played in a league during the offseason and had some matches together and we've always practiced doubles,” Maddi said. “It's different because I know her. I know her potential. If I'm playing with someone new, or that I don't know, it's harder to know their style. I think I play a more passive style. I try to keep it consistent and it works for me. She's more aggressive and that works well for her.”
After attending a local swim club to swim, the sisters noticed the tennis courts at the facility and figured they'd give the sport a try. They haven't looked back since.
“The twins are great,” Fehn said. “Their parents are really helpful, too. They donated the wind screens we have at Bowie. They're very involved with their kids and they've done a great job. They've got them on track and they've really helped them to be excellent.”