Water Polo Twin Talents
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  04/11/2008

By Melanie Anderson, Daily Cal Contributing Writer
This story was originally published in the Daily Californian on Thursday, April 10, 2008.
Click here for original version.

Reprinted by permission.

If you have been to a Cal women's water polo game this season at Spieker Aquatics Complex, you have probably noticed a group of tan and shaggy-haired college students sprawled out in the stands supporting the No. 6 Bears.

These are not spectators with only amateur knowledge of the sport. This flip-flop and board-short wearing crowd is the Cal men's water polo team, which took home the NCAA title last fall for the second year in a row.

Among those men in the bleachers is senior Mike Hayes, who intently watches his twin sister Molly, a starting driver for the team.

"He is at all the games," says Molly. "It's fun to always see him on the pool deck. Family is a big thing for me, so it's nice to just always have him around."

Mike agrees: "It's nice having a sister so close to you. Mainly we support each other through sports and water polo."

During their freshman year the twins used to see each other daily at the dining hall. Now they see each other most often at her sorority house because Mike is dating one of her "sisters"-and of course at the pool.

Naturally, they talk about water polo.

"I'll call him whenever I need advice or stuff's going wrong with polo because I know he's been through the same thing," says Molly. "(But) if we lose a game, I don't like talking at all. So he'll just call and leave a message and just tell me what he thinks, just about how I did in the game."

Molly's water polo career has been nurtured by her family since the beginning.

It was thanks to her two older sisters, Megan-who played for Michigan-and Caitlin, that Molly switched from swimming to water polo.

"I was at a tournament with them when I was about 10," says Molly. "They didn't have enough players so I hopped in and started playing. I had never played before so that really started things off."

By the urging of his mother, Mike says he picked up the sport after his three sisters.

The Hayes twins grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., playing for club teams at Stanford. They practiced at the same time on separate ends of the pool.

"We never played with each other or against each other but it was fun to be able to do the same thing together," says Molly. "We always played baseball, basketball, soccer, so I feel like it was just natural to do the same thing again."

Molly and Mike both remember their Little League days together as their favorite part of their childhood.

Mike said he cherished winning the championship when they were in sixth grade, while Molly was happy just being part of the team.

"I loved playing with him and just doing everything together," says Molly. "I was the only girl (on the team), so he was definitely nice including me with all his friends."

Today, not much has changed. Molly said she considers her brother's teammates as another family.

Senior Heather Stuart added that there is chemistry in the relationship between the two teams because they both understand the great commitment it takes to succeed in the sport.

"I think our sport definitely has the best relationship," says Molly. "I talked to other sports (to see) if they hang out with their guys and their girls team and it doesn't sound like they do. I feel like we do everything together. Maybe because sometimes our practice overlaps, we're in the same area, and we're in the dorms together, I just feel like we're really good friends and we stay friends throughout the year."

This is apparent from the two teams' presence at each other's games.

Molly says that her favorite moment shared with her brother while at Cal was watching his team win the 2006 NCAA championship against USC at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.

"The 'SC band was there and their cheerleaders and they're just so obnoxious," says Molly. "It was tied and there was (0.1 seconds) left and (the Bears) scored on this random tip shot. It was just crazy and I'm so glad I was there. Just seeing the look on his face. It was cool."

After having attended different high schools-Molly going to Saint Francis and Mike walking the halls of Bellarmine-and despite having developed their technique at Stanford, they both found themselves signing on to the water polo programs at Cal.

The Cardinal's coaching staff actually ran Molly's club team, but she was influenced to become a Bear because her father went to Cal.

She was already accustomed to the trip across the Bay from the Saturday afternoons she spent as a kid watching football games at Memorial Stadium.

Mike took a little longer to make up his mind, but Molly is convinced that she influenced his decision.

"I think he followed me here," says Molly with a laugh.

Whether this is true or not, the programs seem to have been good fits for both Molly and Mike, whom Molly describes as an incredibly hard worker.

"I always try to compare our team to the men's team because they've obviously done so well," Molly said. "I definitely think Kirk (Everist) and Rich (Corso) have different styles of coaching and you kind of have to with men and women. But they're both really good coaches and both get it done."

Even under different coaches, Molly and Mike have developed similar skills.

Stuart said she noticed the likeness in the siblings' ball control, and Molly thinks they have the same mental approach.

"We play the same position and to some extent we have the same hands," Molly said. "I think he's a really smart player in the pool and I think I have some of that, too."

She certainly does, if her 37 goals scored so far this season have any significance.

Having the twins nearby has been a thrill for their parents, Stephen and Michelle.

When Molly travels this Friday to Palo Alto to play No. 2 Stanford in her last conference game with Cal, she can be assured that Mike and her parents will be in the stands cheering her on.