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St. Alphonus sisters' bond extends far beyond volleyball court

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
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Olivia Kaminski, left, and her sister Hannah built a bond through volleyball and have become closer than ever.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Hannah Kaminski dedicated her senior season to her sister Olivia.

The days leading up to the 2013 girls volleyball season were filled with excitement in the Kaminski household. Eldest daughter, Hannah, was set to begin her senior season, and younger sister, Olivia, was about to begin her junior high season at St. Alphonsus.

Hannah is a three-year starting setter, and Olivia seemed primed to follow in her sister's footsteps before some scary news hit her and her family the day before volleyball season was to begin.

“It was during a physical last August when the doctor discovered a heart murmur (in Olivia),” said Rich Kaminski, the girl's father. “She was one of the top players on the team, and the news that she could not play anymore was crushing to Olivia and her teammates.”

Olivia was diagnosed with left ventriclular cardiomyopathy, a condition that basically prevents people from participating in competitive sports. Currently, Olivia is required to be monitored and checked every six months, but most sports are out of the equation for the 12-year-old.

“It was a tough blow for a kid who had the volleyball world in her hands,” Rich Kaminski said. “She is limited to golf, bowling, curling, archery or hunting as sports she can participate in.”

Olivia said her heart absolutely fell upon hearing the news.

“I went from being super excited to not knowing how I was going to adjust,” Olivia said.

Although disappointed, she refused to quit on her team. She uses her high volleyball IQ as an assistant coach of sorts, helping out and being a pillar of the team.

“I share what I can with the coach, and the team is progressing,” Olivia said. “I help them with fundamentals and share all my knowledge.”

Olivia said she never feels sick but knows if she begins to feel overheated, it time to take a break.

Older sister Hannah tears up when she speaks about her sister.

“I cried … it's sad stuff,” Hannah said. “We built a real bond with volleyball. We worked out in the driveway together. That stuff built a friendship and helped us bond.”

Hannah got a scare of her own when it was discovered she has an enlarged aorta in her heart. The good news for Hannah is that her aorta simply grew a little faster than the rest of her, and as she reached her 18th birthday, everything else caught up. She can live and play without limitations.

In an effort to do all she can to honor her sister, Hannah follows a family tradition by wearing the No. 8 jersey. Rich wore it as a player. Olivia did, too.

The No. 8 has been retired by Olivia's school, St. Alphonsus in Wexford.

Hannah wears her sister's Active Ankle braces every game as a reminder that her is sister is with her.

Hannah plans to continue her high level of play at North Catholic, where she has been the captain the past two seasons and a member of the all-section team.

Her goal is to play college volleyball, and with some opportunities in front of her, the idea is to find a good place to study to be a teacher and play ball.

“My sister's goal was to play at Penn State, so I will dedicate my college career (wherever I go) to her,” Hannah said.

This season, Hannah has polished her setting and jump-serve skills and said what she will miss most about high school is her coach and how she was pushed to the limits to reach her potential.

Olivia has a great attitude and has no plans of leaving the game. She will remain with the team in a coaching capacity and takes great joy in seeing her advice benefit younger players.

“I love seeing them get the concepts and succeed,” Olivia said. “I follow a quote that says to follow your dream and if one path is closed, find another and do the best you can.”

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com .

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