Cardinal blood courses through Keefe family

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Caitlin Keefe received a phone call from her mom one night after a Stanford women’s volleyball game.

“Caitlin, open your eyes!” her mom said.

Little did Caitlin know, she was shown on TV covering her eyes every time Michaela, her sister and Cardinal teammate, served the ball. Caitlin got nervous watching her fraternal twin sister from the sidelines. She wanted her to have a good game because she knew exactly how it impacted her on and off the court. 

“Your teammates are all your sisters but it’s so different when it’s actually your twin,” Caitlin said.

Caitlin and Michaela played on the same volleyball team since fifth grade. For the last four years, the two were teammates together at Stanford, the nation’s top collegiate women’s volleyball program that has won three of the last four NCAA championships in the sport. 

Playing for Stanford as a student-athlete runs in the Keefe DNA: Five out of the six members of the family have a Stanford athletic career under their belt. 

Stanford Athletics confirmed that five student-athletes across two generations of parents and children is a Stanford record. The twins’ father, Adam Keefe, played basketball and volleyball at Stanford from 1988-92. With the 10th overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks drafted Keefe, launching his nine-year NBA career that ended with the Golden State Warriors. The twins’ mother, Kristin Klein, went from being a four-time All-American at Stanford to representing Team USA in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. This school year, the Keefe twins welcomed their younger brother, James, to the Farm as he started his collegiate career on the men’s basketball team. Their youngest sister, Kerry, is still a junior in high school but is being recruited by several top Division I volleyball programs. 

Despite Adam and Kristin’s own successes at Stanford, they never pressured their children to choose Stanford.

“Growing up in a Stanford family, I’ve had Cardinal across my chest since I was young,” Michaela said. “But my parents did a good job of not pushing that on me.” 

“The goal was to find where they were going to be happiest,” Adam said. 

“Everyone gets to make their own decision,” Kristin said. 

It was the combination of top-tier academics and championship-winning athletic programs that drew the Keefe siblings to Stanford more than the chance to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

“If you have the opportunity to go to Stanford, you really go to Stanford,” Caitlin said. 

“It was one of the cutest things I remember,” Kristin said reflecting on her son, James’ decision between Stanford and Princeton. When he committed to Stanford, James was surprised by his sisters’ excitement that he would be coming to their school. Kristin said, “He told me: ‘It makes me so happy they really care.’” 

“It’s fun watching him develop as an athlete and a person, physically and mentally,” said Adam, who used to coach James in basketball.

James plays the same position that Adam played, and they talk often about James’s progress.

“He [Adam] has always been able to give me so much good guidance and he can deliver it in such a positive way,” James said. “I feel very well supported by my coaches, and he’s a bonus resource.” 

James (center) is the newest Keefe on campus. The 6’9″ forward finished his first season on the basketball team this past winter. (Photo courtesy of Keefe family)

James knows his older sisters are looking out for him.

“It’s awesome to have sisters who care about me so much,” he said. “He really looks up to them,” Kristin said. “He always has.”

In Maples Pavilion, the women’s volleyball and men’s basketball team locker rooms are adjacent, so the Keefe siblings bump into each other often during practice. The three siblings share a car on campus, giving them even more opportunities to meet up.

“When he needs to borrow the keys, we make him come over 20 minutes early,” Caitlin said. “So we can check in and hear how he’s doing.” 

“It makes me so happy as a mom to know they’re sharing the college experience together,” Kristin said. “Caitlin and Michaela have so much wisdom to share with James.”

The twins advise their younger brother on what classes to take, the best dining halls and their favorite study spots. 

During one visit to campus, Caitlin sat with her parents at the Tressider Student Union and drew directions on a napkin to show them how to get to Maples Pavilion. She forgot that they not only went to Stanford, but that they also played in Maples. 

Kristin is happy that her daughters experienced their four-year Stanford journey together.

“It’s heartwarming to watch their relationship as sisters and as twins,” Kristin said. “Being in the womb together, their relationship is 22 years in the making. They understand each other more than I will ever know.” 

Caitlin (left) and Michaela (right) played volleyball on the same team from fifth grade through their collegiate careers. (Photo: JOHN TODD/isiphotos.com)

Caitlin vividly remembers watching Stanford women’s volleyball play in the National Championship game in 2004. She and Michaela were only six years old, but Caitlin saw that as Stanford took the championship title, two sisters on the team, Ogonna and Nji Nnamani, hugged and the rest of their team immediately surrounded them in celebration.

“I said, ‘I want that to be Michaela and me,’” Caitlin said. “We had that goal since we were six.”

That dream became a reality not just once, but three times, as the Cardinal won the NCAA Championship in 2016, 2018 and 2019. 

In their final year at Stanford, Caitlin and Michaela roomed together for the first time since living in their childhood home in Pacific Palisades.

“In the beginning, we were worried we were going to fight,” Michaela said. “But everything feels natural. You want to have a place where you feel like you can be 100% yourself. Even sharing a room with Caitlin I still have that feeling.” 

“We’ve been reminded of how much we love spending time together,” Caitlin said.

It’s the little things they know they will miss next year when living apart.

“We both crack each other’s backs at night,” Michaela said. “I know I’m going to miss that.” 

Next year, Caitlin and Michaela will be parting ways for the first time. Caitlin will move to New York City to work for Bank of America and Michaela will be pursuing her master’s degree.

“It’s a part of life,” Kristin said. “It will be hard, but it will be good.” 

Contact Megan Aguilar at megan20 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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