The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

One Heartbeat: DeBoer twins setting the tone for SFSU volleyball

The DeBoer sisters have helped cultivate a family-like culture amongst the sports community on campus
Ryosuke Kojima
Brianna DeBoer, Asia Arbaugh, and Kimberly DeBoer during the women’s volleyball game against Cal Poly Pomona at the SFSU gymnasium on Oct. 5, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress)

When standing side by side on the court, the only way to differentiate them is by their numbers. Off the court, the DeBoer twins share more than just a similar face and same last name but also a passion for volleyball and to build off of each other’s successes. The game has grown their bond to be more than sisters, but also leaders.

As long as they can remember, the duo were able to lean on each other during their careers.

The DeBoer twins were involved in various sports growing up such as basketball, dance and soccer. It was during the seventh grade when they participated in Forza1 Performance Center, a volleyball club in Temecula, California. The experience made the pair realize they wanted to dedicate themselves to the sport.

Sisters Brianna and Kimberly DeBoer pose for a photograph at the SFSU gymnasium on Sept. 19, 2023.(Ryosuke Kojima / Golden Gate Xpress)  Ryosuke Kojima

“I’d say it’s unique that we have a built-in best friend,” said Kimberly, a kinesiology major at SFSU. “We’re always there to support each other. No matter what, we’re unconditionally there for each other, and having that support throughout our whole life has been awesome. Being able to go through this journey of sports together has been really cool.”

Brianna, the other half of the duo, and Kimberly attended Murrieta Valley High School and were recruited by San Francisco State University in 2018. Brianna, a psychology major, plays as a libero and Kimberly, is a setter. While playing on the team, they expanded their participation to assume leadership roles in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in hopes of cultivating the student sports community.

“I think in high school, it was kind of a starting point to believe in community and leadership within sport and through sports,” Kimberly said. “So that was a really cool time of just building and trusting the process.”

During their first season in 2021 at SFSU, they experienced early success with a 22-5 record and 14-4 in conference play. The following season featured a departure of 10 players from the team, five being seniors who graduated.

The DeBoers saw this as an opportunity for the team to come together and lay the building blocks of a new cultural foundation to build trust among teammates.

“There were nine of us in our first spring season, essentially,” said Kimberly. “And through that transition period, we created our culture kind of from baseline up from what our group wanted it to be.”

The team created the mantra “Our House” during the 2022 season to represent those values set in place.

“Within our house, we have different foundation pieces of trust, communication, accountability and discipline,” said Kimberly. “That really was the core values that were behind our program and what we practiced every day. And everyone was bought into that, which was huge.“

The Gators started the 2022 season with a 1-3 start to conference play, finishing the season with a 14-11 overall record. Going into the 2023 season, they’ve been able to flip the script with a 3-1 start-to-conference play. Despite the team’s hot start, the focus remains on fine-tuning the details in preparation for the opportunities that lie ahead as the season progresses.

“The door is wide open,” Brianna said. “There’s so many little things in front of us that we need to get through and work through that we’re slowly chipping away at as a team. It’s just discipline, keeping the game simple.”

Libero and defensive specialist, Brianna DeBoer, serving the ball during the women’s volleyball game against Cal Poly Pomona at the school gymnasium in San Francisco on Oct. 5, 2023. (Ryo Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) Ryosuke Kojima 

The DeBoer’s growth was recognized by Gators head coach, Matt Hoffman.

“Kimbo and Brianna have really stepped up, in being leaders both on and off the court within the team, and they’ve matured within themselves to be really good at those roles,” Hoffman said.

Brianna grew during her transition from an outside hitter in her senior year in high school to a libero at SFSU. With the new position, she understood the opportunities that came with her college recruitment.

Hoffman recognized Brianna’s passing and defensive abilities to anchor the back row of the team.

“Making that transition into college of crash-course-learning how to be a libero –– learning how to take on that role –– was a lot of connecting back to myself so that I could positively influence those around me,” Brianna said. “If I wasn’t grounded, if I wasn’t mentally stable –– emotionally stable –– within the game, I wasn’t able to contribute.”

As Brianna became more comfortable in her new position as a defensive specialist, her interpersonal approach to leadership and support of her teammates began to evolve as well.

“Everyone has days where they need an extra second, they need an extra high five, they need an extra look in the eyes, just to know that someone else is there experiencing that with them,” Brianna said. “I try to take leadership that way because she [Kimberly] has such a prominent role in affecting the team. I like to go around the back door and make sure that each and everyone is loved, accounted for and feels heard and seen.”

As a setter, Kimberly is naturally placed in the role of being the vocal leader who commands the court due to her involvement in every play of the team’s offense.

Setter, Kimberly DeBoer, celebrates during the women’s volleyball game against Cal Poly Pomona at the school gymnasium on campus in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 5, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) Ryosuke Kojima 

Rebecca Rendahl, the middle blocker for the team, is a graduate student at SFSU in her second season on the team. She had the opportunity to share the court in high school with Kimberly, who at the time was a sophomore on the varsity team, while Rendahl was in her senior year.

“She was the baby on varsity and now she kind of has grown into that role and I’d say the same with Briana,” said Rendahl. “They’ve always been really hard workers, but I never really got to see that because I graduated before that. Both of them have grown so much and the leadership aspect and commanding the court when they play because both of them have very demanding positions where they have to talk a lot and help other people. Kimbo as the setter and Brianna leading the defense as libero.”

Rendahl attended Fresno State and the University of Minnesota after high school.

“I came on my visit in December of 2021 and it was so cool to reconnect with them,” said Rendahl. “That’s part of why I chose to go to SF State just because of my relationship with them. I remember, at the visit, we did the whole tour and everything, like normal, but then they took me in the car, just around sunset and around the school. And they’re showing me basically what could happen.”

The off-court connections cultivated within their group have been the driving force for the team heading into the 2023 season. It’s also the inspiration behind the team’s new mantra for the season, “One Heartbeat.” The mantra is a tribute to the team’s family-like culture fostered over the past 18 months.

Trinity Yates, a middle blocker for the team, expressed how there’s something different about the team this year.

“These girls are like the sisters I never had,” Yates said. “I love going into the gym and seeing everybody every single day and it’s just not saying that we didn’t do that last year. But this year, there’s just something different in the air, almost. We’re all here because we want to be here. That’s definitely what our culture is like. We’re doing everything for each other. And the heartbeat mantra ties us all together.”

SFSU women’s volleyball team in a huddle during the women’s volleyball game against Cal Poly Pomona at the school gymnasium on campus in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 5, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) Ryosuke Kojima 

Kimberly is in her second year as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Under her leadership, the committee has focused on creating a close-knit culture amongst all student-athletes on campus, emphasizing mental health, unity and inclusion.

The committee has hosted events, such as launching a mental wellness campaign and website, as well as discussion panels to allow student-athletes to express their thoughts on their experiences and inform them about readily available resources.

“Just being the president of SAAC has meant so much,” Kimberly said. “We want people to know that they’re cared for and that they have support no matter what within our athletics community. I think we were able to get that message across to everyone. I love it and the opportunity to continue to connect the culture of the athletics community and impact every single sport that’s a part of SF State Athletics.”

Yates also serves as the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has built a close relationship with the DeBoers. She has taken notice of the progress SAAC has been making and credits Kimberly’s leadership as the spark behind the change.

“She’s done an amazing job,” Yates said. “Everything that’s happened last year and then this year so far is unprecedented. It’s really cool to see her take on that leadership role and make a significant difference in our athletic community.”

SFSU women’s volleyball team celebrates during the women’s volleyball game against Cal Poly Pomona at the school gymnasium on campus in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 5, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) Ryosuke Kojima 

The DeBoers are optimistic about the team’s trajectory in 2023. They can see the team coming together in a special way and hope the culture they’ve helped cultivate can help them overcome adversity and catapult them to success.

Their sixth game of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference was a 3-0 upset of 13th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona, marking their first win against the Broncos since 2009.

The team has another opportunity to improve on the season as they face Cal State San Marcos on Oct. 7 at Don Nasser Family Plaza.

“There’s going to be obstacles and challenges in the way that we’re going to have to push through,” Kimberly said. “What we want behind that door is something that’s worth it, but things that are worth it don’t come easy.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Victor Harris Jr
Victor Harris Jr, Podcast Editor
Victor Harris Jr (he/him) is a reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. Raised in Fairfield, California, he is a transfer student from Solano Community College, majoring in Journalism with a minor in Management. During his free time, you can find him watching sports, bowling, gaming, or working on his sports podcast, More Trophies.
Ryosuke Kojima
Ryosuke Kojima, Photographer
Ryosuke Kojima (he/him) is a photographer for the Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine, majoring in photojournalism and minoring in sociology. Growing up in southern California and Japan, Ryo is an avid fan of various sports, the outdoors, backpacking, film photography, and more. In his free time, you can catch him hanging out with friends, skating, shooting film, or on the golf course.

Comments (0)

All Golden Gate Xpress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *