For most sibling pairs, it’s the older one that blazes the trail for the younger to follow. But for Cardinal women’s water polo players Kaley and Cory Dodson, it was actually Cory, who is a grade behind Kaley in school, who led the push to Stanford.
Cory said that she always wanted to go to Stanford, and so when her sister was deciding a year before Cory would make her own choice, Cory pushed Kaley towards the Farm.
“She was set on Stanford—it was kind of up to me.” Kaley, a current junior, remembered. “I was really the one who was on the fence and she was like, ‘no, you have to go so we can go to school together.’”
Kaley ultimately did choose Stanford and made an immediate contribution upon arriving on campus in the fall of 2010. As a freshman, she scored 27 goals and earned a spot on the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation All-Newcomer Team as the Cardinal captured the national championship for the second time in its history.
Cory also fulfilled her “childhood dream” and joined her sister on the team last season. She tallied seven goals, including three at the National Collegiate Championship, as Stanford successfully defended its national title.
This year, Kaley has recorded 27 goals and Cory has scored 11 times for a stacked Cardinal squad. The team heads into the MPSF championships this weekend with a 26-1 record and the top ranking in the nation.
Stanford head coach John Tanner said that the Stanford water polo program has a long history of having sisters on the team. Last year, in addition to the Dodsons, current junior Kaitlyn Lo and her sister Alyssa ‘12 played together for the Cardinal. Tanner said that although he recruits every player as an individual, he recognizes that within the same household you can often find similar positive traits, and the Dodsons are no exception.
“They have a drive to excel and are very intense competitors,” Tanner said. “They’re self-disciplined, good students—Cory and Kaley certainly fit the Stanford profile.”
Tanner also said that the team often benefits from the similar ways in which the sisters see the game.
“You see stuff where they just connect on things,” Tanner said. “They are both really comfortable with a dynamic style [so] as things are changing, evolving during the course of a possession, they seem to maintain that unity.”
That connection arises from years of playing together. According to the sisters, since they began playing, they have been on the same team with the exception of every other year in club—although only a year apart in school, the sisters are actually 19 months apart in age. They also played together for three years at Los Alamitos High School in Seal Beach, Calif.
“We’ve had the same coaches so that kind of contributes to it,” Cory said. “We learned the same style of play and we’ve learned each other’s tendencies.”
While the sisters often approach the game in the same way, their physical styles are different. Tanner described Kaley as “long and really fast,” while Cory is a more “tactical thinker” who has “the view of a coach.”
Despite hours in the pool together, the sisters say they rarely compete with each other.
“I can think of very few times when we’ve been competitive, which I think why we’ve gotten along so well,” Kaley said. “We have different strengths and weaknesses and we’ve both succeeded in different areas.”
Out of the water, both sisters are quick to describe each other as their best friend.
“We kind of have each other’s backs and stick together through everything,” Cory said. “We have each other’s backs out of the water and we do it in the water and we have a really strong relationship.”
Both sisters also said that the other is the first person they turn to when they need support, which is made easier by the fact that they live in adjacent dorms in the Cowell Cluster. Kaley said that when she was younger, she appreciated her friendship with her sister much less than she does now.
“At the time, I wasn’t like ‘Oh, I’ll die if I don’t go to school with Cory,’ but now, I’d die if I didn’t go to school with Cory,” Kaley laughed.
“I don’t know what I would do either,” Cory agreed.
Tanner said that although the sisters are certainly close, they don’t let their bond stop them from connecting with the rest of team.
“The strength of their relationship is a great example for the whole team, but they also realize the importance of embracing all 21 people on the team,” Tanner said. “It’s really fun to watch them in the water interacting during practices and during games.”
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky ‘at’ stanford.edu.