Kyler and Mara Roteliuk have a typical teenage sister relationship.
They love each other and they loathe each other. They laugh at each other and they yell at each other. They respect each other and they criticize each other.
They are alike in a couple of ways, though. They are both exceptional athletes who have big expectations for the small-town Sawyer volleyball team this season.
Sophomore middle blocker Mara Roteliuk, front, and junior middle blocker Kyler Roteliuk practice Monday at Sawyer High School.
"It gets a little tense at times," said Kyler Roteliuk, a junior middle blocker. "We snip at each other a bit, but I'd say it's fun. We're only 17 months apart so it gets a little intense. She's an awesome volleyball player, too. She's been playing really well this season."
The Roteliuks filled the stat sheet in Sawyer's first three contests of the season. Mara had 10 kills and 10 blocks against Drake-Anamoose and a match-high 40 digs against Dunseith. Kyler totaled 34 digs versus Dunseith. The two combined for 15 blocks against Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky on Tuesday.
"They are more than willing to give 110 percent every day in practice," first-year Sawyer coach Brooke Maddocks said. "In the offseason, we were lifting weights and doing some dynamic stuff. They were here every single day, early and ready to go. They are so coachable. They are very willing to learn new things and learn the way I've taught them."
Both Kyler and Mara, a sophomore middle blocker, began playing volleyball in fifth grade when they competed on Sawyer's seventh and eighth grade team. By seventh grade, they were playing varsity as substitutes and by eighth grade, they were starting middle blockers.
"It's like I'm at a senior level as a sophomore because I've been playing varsity for so many years," Mara Roteliuk said. "I'd say it's easier to get along with the girls because we've been playing with them for so long."
This marks the fourth year the Roteliuk sisters have played together at the varsity level. Last year, the Flashes advanced to the third day of the District 11 tournament for the first time in program history after defeating Westhope-Newburg in a loser-out match. Sawyer took Rugby to five sets in a region qualifier, falling four points short of advancing. Despite the heartbreak, Sawyer has goals of reaching the Region 6 tournament this season.
"We've really come together as a team," said Kyler Roteliuk, who was named to the all-district team last year. "We used to have a lot of drama, a lot of separation between the older girls and the younger girls, and now we seem to be much more of a team."
The Roteliuks will be relied on more than in previous seasons as sophomore setter Paige Brabandt is out for the season after breaking her leg playing basketball this summer.
When the volleyball season ends, Kyler and Mara still see plenty of each other. The sisters also compete in basketball and track and field. With just 44 students enrolled at Sawyer, playing multiple sports is the norm.
"In a small school, basically if you can run and/or have hand-eye coordination of some sort, you play sports," Kyler Roteliuk said. "It's great living in a small town because you get the opportunity to play varsity at such a young age."
Kyler and Mara began playing basketball in fourth grade and joined the track and field team when each reached the seventh grade. Kyler said she enjoys staying busy.
"Between seasons I feel useless," she said. "I have nothing to do after school and nothing to prepare for. I think it would be weird if I didn't play three sports."
Kyler said Mara is the better basketball player. The two don't try to coach each other on the court or track, saying it would just end up in yelling matches.
"It gets kind of hard sometimes because we get at each other's throats," Mara Roteliuk said. "We don't always see eye to eye, but we can usually work it out before it gets too bad."
Said Maddocks: "I feel like they're more pushing each other to do better. They might get a bit frustrated when someone was supposed to get that pass or someone was supposed to get that block. But I think, overall, they more push each other to be better athletes and I think that's great."
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State University men's club hockey team. Follow him at Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.