HARKER HEIGHTS — Anjane Janda was excited about the idea of having a baby sister. At least, that is, until she realized that meant losing some of her stuff.
“Take her back. I don’t want her any more.”
The two-year-old Anjane was screaming at her mother as she tried to kick and push her weeks-old sister through the guardrails of her crib.
“She was just mad that I took her crib,” said the now 16-year-old Kathleen.
“Yes,” 18-year-old Anjane confirmed. “I didn’t want a bed, I wanted my crib.”
That wouldn’t be the last time the two future Harker Heights volleyball players would go toe-to-toe, but it is their often-contentious relationship that has brought both of them closer than ever before.
Rivals from the first week her parents brought Kathleen home from the hospital, the competitive fire that often transformed into sisterly feuds is that same one that drives them to be their best on and off the court.
“That’s why this team has such good chemistry, because all the girls are competitive, but don’t want to see each other fail,” their father, Jason Janda, said. “And that’s why they’re rising to the top.”
Anjane, a 6-foot senior outside hitter for the 20th-ranked Lady Knights (28-3, 4-0 8-5A), is a three-year varsity starter with a fierce right-hand spike, while the 6-foot-2 “baby” sister Kathleen, a junior, is already a major contributor in her first varsity season. Joined with three other seniors — Shantraie Rodriguez, Deysia Burden and Caityln Young — who range in height from 6-1 to 5-11, Harker Heights is five deep along the tallest front line in the area.
Their rivalry isn’t without it’s battle scars, though.
With their father deployed to Iraq around mid-2000s, a rather innocuous argument morphed into an amateur boxing match in the blink of an eye.
And although neither sister remembers what prompted their lone physical confrontation, as it is with most fights, only the end result is of any real significance.
“She slammed my head against my door,” Anjane said. “It hurt.”
“With one punch,” a still-proud Kathleen boasted.
There was also the time when Anjane “accidentally” threw a pencil at Kathleen’s feet and managed to hit her square in the left eye, scraping the white of her cornea, all because her little sister didn’t exit her room fast enough.
But usually, their battles come in the less-destructive form of trying to one-up the other.
Whether it’s the morning race to the car to sit up front on the drive to school, who has the best grades, or a casual photo shoot that broke out into a personal tug-of-war, the Janda sisters are constantly in competition.
“As long as it keeps pushing them to succeed, then it’s good,” their father, Jason Janda, said.
Growing up, the two sisters were always relatively similar in height. That is until Kathleen hit her growth spurt in the eighth grade.
Shooting up about 2-3 inches over the summer, Kathleen quickly surpassed the lanky Anjane and didn’t stop there.
“That’s when she started inching, and I was like, ‘No! I better eat my veggies,’” Anjane said. “And then she goes skyrocket, and I was like, ‘Gosh.’”
Of course, the youngest Janda didn’t hesitate to use her separation to needle at her sister.
“Once Kathleen reached the point of passing Anjane, she always rubbed it in her face,” said Jason, who’s 6-1 himself. “And now she passes me, she’s taller than I am, so she rubs it in everybody’s face.”
Already a point of issue for Anjane, the height advantage becomes even more apparent at school, where Kathleen can be seen from one end of the school to the next with her head towering over the masses as she walks the halls.
“It’s weird being the tallest on the team because I’m the baby, but I’m still the tallest, so it’s weird,” Kathleen said. “Even in the hallways, you see over everybody and I wear heels sometimes ...”
“That disappoints me,” Anjane interjected.
Making it work
With such depth and experience, and a competitive fire that starts with the Jandas but permeates the entire Lady Knights family, Heights has already put together three seven-game win streaks and has yet to give up a set in district this season.
“It’s a better team environment for the girls this year, and I think a good part of that plays into the fact that AJ (Anjane) and Kathleen are sisters,” Heights coach Chris Wiley said. “The girls feel like there’s more of that sisterly bond this year than we’ve had in the past, and that’s a big reason behind it.”
But it’s together — playing on the same team for the first time — that the Janda sisters have bonded on the court as well, creating quite the dominating force whenever they line up next to one another along the net.
Through the pre-district slate, Anjane led the Lady Knights with 151 kills while adding 12 ½ blocks and 72 digs. While not as much an offensive threat as her big sister, Kathleen’s impact on defense has been unmistakable with 49 ½ blocks, 75 kills and eight aces.
“(The competitiveness) makes them stronger for this year, but next year when AJ’s gone, it’ll make Kathleen that much better of a player because she’s always had to compete at that level,” Wiley said.
Their mother added: “They seem to, this year, really come together and support each other.”
Part of that support comes in the form of honest and heartfelt criticisms, as each tries to make sure the other performs at her best for the betterment of the team.
“I think it’s quite fun,” Anjane said of playing along side her sister.
Of course, as the older sister, the usually reserved Anjane is never shy about telling Kathleen how she can improve, on and off the court.
“She’s more constructive than the other girls with me,” Kathleen said. “But being siblings, you know she has your best interests in (mind), so it works out better.”