Twin Tandem: UCI’s Golden Pair
As a 12-year-old, Ali Facey had always dreamed of playing collegiate tennis alongside her twin sister Kat Facey. During her final year of high school, her dream was partially realized when the two were recruited to play for UCI. Despite playing on the same team, however, it wouldn’t be until their senior year that the Faceys would be able to take to the courts as a doubles team.
Since being reunited, the Faceys have amassed an impressive 16-4 record together at the No. 1 doubles position, showing that the two clearly have not lost a step.
“There’s nothing like playing doubles with your twin sister,” Ali said.
The Faceys have been photographed holding a racquet in their hands as young as two years old. However, their first exposure to tennis reached back far earlier than that.
“Even after (our) mom gave birth to us, she was playing tournaments, and even when she didn’t know she was pregnant with us she was playing tournaments,” Kat said.
Growing up an hour away from Sacramento, the Faceys often found themselves to be the only juniors playing in tennis tournaments at local sports clubs. Though Northern California had a thriving competitive scene for tennis, the Faceys simply didn’t have the time to travel to national tournaments or money to play alongside professionals in special clinics like most of their peers.
What the Facey’s did have, however, was their mother.
“Our mom’s practices were the hardest practices we ever experienced,” Kat said.
A methodical coach, the Faceys mother created a training regime for the twins that consisted of daily cardio, weight-lifting and organized hitting drills. Despite the grueling practices, the Faceys never complained.
“We wanted to do it, she was a perfectionist, and I was too,” said Ali. “I remember she would stay out there for an extra hour with me just feeding balls.”
Their mother’s coaching paid dividends as the Faceys established themselves amongst the top 10 girls singles players in Northern California and were ranked the top doubles team in Norcal in the 10’s, 14’s, and 16’s age divisions.
Then again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise as winning seems to be in their blood.
“When she was eight months pregnant with my brother, my dad played her and she beat my dad 6-0, 6-0 and my dad can hit,” Ali laughed.
It should come as little shock then, that when asked about their tennis idols, the Faceys did not name twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 men’s doubles team in the world, but rather their mother.
Though the Faceys seemed destined to play tennis since they were first conceived, the sport was never forced upon them. As adolescents, each sister pursued other past times alongside tennis, Ali played basketball, while Kat studied dance. When the time came to choose between their interests, both Faceys naturally gravitated toward tennis.
“I think we liked it cause we got to play together,” Kat said.
“And we loved having our mom as a coach,” Ali added.
Of course, the tennis uniforms didn’t hurt either.
“Well, I liked the clothes better,” laughed Ali. “They were cuter than the basketball outfits.”
Though the two have virtually grown up playing alongside each other their whole lives, the Faceys have never once squared off against each other.
“We never played one practice match in 18 years of playing tennis for singles, which is very weird,” Ali said.
Truthfully, the Faceys harbor no desire to play against each other as well.
“If you look at the Bryan brothers, their ranked number one in the world still. Our mom talked to their dad, Wayne, and Wayne told our mom that he never had his sons play each other and we have no desire to play each other,” Kat said.
While most siblings may be more concerned with seeing who’s better, the Faceys personify the notion of blood being thicker than water. As a result of Ali suffering a rolled ankle, Kat found herself traveling to a tournament by herself for the first time in her life down in Southern California. With several college recruits on hand to scout players it was a prime opportunity to be recruited.
The Faceys, however, were a package deal, and Kat was not afraid to make that clear to prospective coaches.
“I was like, I need two full scholarships, because my twin sister and I are going to school together. Some of the coaches were like, you’re crazy to sit down and say that,” Kat said.
Some coaches offered a shared scholarship between the two, but Kat held her ground, refusing to settle for anything less than two full scholarships.
“We worked way too hard not to get it,” Ali said.
Kat’s perseverance paid off, as head coach Mike Edles saw potential in Kat and was familiar with the play of her sister Ali as well.
“I was just so impressed with (Kat’s) groundstrokes and her fighting spirit, her tenacity and what I thought she could become. She wasn’t a top player,” said Coach Edles, “but I thought she showed a lot of promise and had some great skills.”
After becoming acclimated with the strong coaching staff at Irvine and the neighboring beaches of Newport, the Faceys were set to become Anteaters.
“Right when I left this school, we knew that we wanted to come here,” Kat said.
Much to the dismay of the Faceys, however, the two were separated from each other as doubles partners for the sake of adding more depth to the line-up.
“Getting the doubles point, that means three strong teams, not anything less than that,” said Coach Edles. “For their second and third years, we won the doubles point 70 percent of the time both seasons, (and) typically it’s considered a good season if you win the doubles point half the time.”
Initially heartbroken, the Faceys came to understand the necessity of being split up for the sake of the team.
Moreover, playing with separate partners proved to be a valuable learning experience.
“We learned a lot about how we like playing with each other and how we appreciate playing with each other,” Kat said.
On the court, Ali is the more animated of the two, often emphatically pumping her fists and yelling after winning a point, while Kat remains more collected throughout the match.
“I’m a firecracker out there,” Ali said.
“She’s more fiery in doubles, I like it. I definitely feed off of it, I yell come on right back at her. But for my game, it benefits me to stay a little bit on the calmer side unless I get that big break or that game,” Kat said.
Currently serving as the co-captains of the team, the Faceys have taken it upon themselves to lead by example.
“We want to motivate the team, we want to inspire the team to want to do well, to want to fight out there. We’ve always had the thought that if we step on the court with somebody, no matter who they are we can beat them,” Kat said.
According to Coach Edles, the twins have not only been a great fit for the program but in their newfound leadership roles as well.
“(Kat) and Ali are a couple of the strongest years we’ve had for captains. They’re doing a phenomenal job. The team really looks up to them and follows their lead,” Coach Edles said.
Following the conclusion of their senior year, the Faceys will look to begin playing professionally together on the circuit. For now though, the two will continue enjoying their first and final season of their collegiate career as a team.
After all, as Ali would say,
“There’s nothing like playing doubles with your twin sister.”