Twin threats

Jacky and Jenni Denton are double trouble for opponents on a
nationally ranked Baler team stacked with talent
Off the volleyball court, it’s difficult to distinguish between
twins Jacky and Jenni Denton. Both are 5′ 10

tall, have the same smile and matching oval faces.
Jacky and Jenni Denton are double trouble for opponents on a nationally ranked Baler team stacked with talent

Off the volleyball court, it’s difficult to distinguish between twins Jacky and Jenni Denton. Both are 5′ 10″ tall, have the same smile and matching oval faces.

Once the seniors step on the hardwood for the San Benito Haybalers – ranked 47 in the nation this year – the similarities end.

The one with the 30-inch vertical leap, that’s Jacky. She is the outside hitter and her job is to score points by soaring over the net, windmilling her arm midair and spiking the ball through any defense.

Jenni is the one with the feathery touch and the fancy for passing. As the

Haybalers’ setter, it is important for Jenni’s hands to remain soft and her senses around the net keen. Her 199 assists so far through non-league play have satiated the voracious appetites of her two outside hitters.

The twin seniors are just two of the reason why Coach Larry Nabzeska feels comfortable retiring after 28 years of coaching confident he is at the helm of the best volleyball team in San Benito Haybalers history.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work and determination to get to this point,” said Jenni Denton. “I think because we’re such a small school that in the past other teams were like, ‘Who are they?’ Now we’re one of the teams they are afraid to play.”

Through rigorous off-season training programs and clinics, coupled with year-round club play, the Haybalers are finally a pulsing blip on the national radar.

So far they have assembled an 11-1 overall record including an 8-1 record en route to the High Sierra Tournament championship in Reno in early September.

Kim Dabo earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors while Jenni Denton and middle blocker Kaylie Kortsen made the High Sierra All-Tournament team.

San Benito followed the tournament win with road victories over the Santa Cruz Cardinals and Los Altos Eagles. The Haybalers are also ranked eighth in the state and are favored to win the Tri-County Athletic League, which would be its fifth league title in a row.

Its intimidating pack of six-foot tall middle blockers, including the

6-foot-1 Kortsen, who has 36 blocks in 11 games, Sarah Groman, and Melissa Moore are obstructing the path of any ball hit their way.

Nashia Alvarez, Alyssa Fowles, Kortsen, Dabo and the Denton twins have amassed 471 digs so far in the team’s 11 games. Digging the volleyball before it hits the hardwood is the reason the Haybalers’ defense only allows 8.9 points per 15-point set while its offense cranks out 14.2.

“Our defense has gotten a lot better,” said Jacky Denton. “Nashia(Alvarez)is the best defensive specialist we have and she doesn’t even play club ball. She’s that good. Everyone on the team gets along well.”

Never underestimate the power of team chemistry. Calling for the ball and knowing where your teammates are at all times so the offense can click are imperative.

Luckily the Denton twins have been clicking since birth. They were inspired to play volleyball after watching their two older sisters, Kristina and Stephanie, on the Ranch San Justo Broncos seventh grade team.

First the twins, in the fourth grade at the time, would just hit the volleyball to each other on the sidelines in between games. Once the Dentons began attending Rancho, they tried out for the volleyball team. Since the Broncos do not have a sixth-grade team, the deck was already stacked against the girls.

Well, maybe not.

Jacky and Jenni made the team as sixth graders and helped lead the Broncos to an undefeated record during their stay at Rancho.

A season later the Dentons began to play club volleyball, which is the local blueprint for a successful volleyball career.

Knowing they would never mature into six-foot beanstalks, the twins dispelled the notion of playing the front row and concentrated on playing the outside hitter position in middle school.

As sisters Kristina and Stephanie began their ascent up the Haybalers’ ladder, the twins faced a dilemma. They knew in high school they both could not play the outside hitter slot. One of them would have to sacrifice and reapply their skills to another position.

Using a little foresight and knowing the Haybalers would be set at the OH position, Jenni decided to bite the bullet and learn the setter’s position, which feeds the hitter.

Jacky made the varsity squad as a sophomore while Jenni made it as a junior after the former setter, Krista Fowles, graduated.

The girls connected on the court as a setter and outside hitter should.

“We connect really well in the court,” said Jenni Denton. “She has become such a smart passer. She’s turned into one of the best passers on the team.

It’s been awesome playing with my sister”

During the summer in addition to playing club ball and using Jumpsoles to improve her vertical leap, Jacky hired a personal trainer to help build her leg muscles.

The results have been phenomenal. She has a 30-inch vertical and is still trying to add to it.

“I can jump just as high as any of the other girls do, but because I may be a little shorter, I have to try and get up even higher,” said Jacky.

As for their plans after high school, Jacky said she has received a few offers but expects to hear from more colleges as the season winds down. Jenni said once this season ends, so will her volleyball career.

She’s eying a career in cosmetology.

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