By Andrew Nelson
University of Nebraska at Omaha senior volleyball teammates Diane Banderas and Kimberly Bailey are in their fifth season with the Mavericks, but it’s actually their tenth season playing alongside each other.
“Not very many people on the team, I don’t know if everyone at least, knows we’ve known each other that long,” Banderas said. “They just know that we’ve been here for five years together, they don’t know that it goes even further back.”
They both hail from the same part of Nebraska just down the road in Lincoln. Banderas attended Lincoln Southwest High School where she lettered three years in volleyball.
That included an all-state honorable mention her senior season and helping the Silverhawks to three state tournament appearances, highlighted by a third-place finish in 2008.
Bailey attended Lincoln North Star across town, where she lettered four years in volleyball. In her time with the Gators, she was a Class A all-state honoree, two-time all-state honorable mention, third-team Super State her senior season and was invited to play in the Nebraska All-Star Volleyball game.
However, high school isn’t where these two met. They met when they teamed up for the Nebraska Volleyball Academy (NVA) when they were 14 years old.
The pair played for NVA for two seasons before jumping up to play for the Nebraska Juniors the rest of their high school careers.
“It was always fun, because she was a hitter at the beginning, and so was I, so getting to hit against each other, and block each other was always fun,” Banderas said.
The two competed against each other occasionally in high school matchups— always interesting due to the two schools’ history Bailey said.
“We’re both the newest schools in town so naturally with the origination of the high schools we were cross-town rivals right away,” Bailey said.
The friendly rivalry from club play carried over to the regular season in meetings between the two prep standouts.
“It was fun, because I always loved playing with her in club, and it was always a weird transition to like play against her on the other side of the net, it’s like ‘that’s my teammate, but not right now,’” Banderas laughed.
The pair took distinct routes to figure out where to continue their volleyball careers. They both had different options to consider, but Omaha appealed to both Banderas and Bailey.
“Looking back on it, we were very separate in our decision-making for colleges,” Bailey said. “We didn’t convince each other to come here so that we could play together. It just happened
to be the way that it all panned out, and it worked out perfectly for the both of us.”
Going to college with a friend or two from high school days can be beneficial for anyone when starting their first year in college, but being teammates can make things even more special.
“When we were in the process once we’d verbally committed here and everything, we’d be able to ride to weights together because we were both from Lincoln,” Banderas said.
The two went on to be roommates for three years on campus before moving into a house together with other teammates.
The bond the two share doesn’t just stay at home, though. It radiates while the two are on the court.
The chemistry they enjoy helps them rally the team, or pick up on things that are not going well.
“I have a really good connection with her so that she’s able to read me while I’m able to read her well
too,” Bailey said. “So then if we’re able to pick each other up quickly, and we’re able to notice that, then that helps us focus on everyone else.”
Kimberly goes on to explain that even though the two of them play separate positions, they still feed off each other.
“For me, playing behind her, our jobs correlate, like what she does on a block or attack reflects what I do on defense, and then my defense compared to how many options she has to hit,” Bailey said.
The two were asked what are three things that only teammates that have been together as long as them would know about each other. Banderas says Bailey is “the fastest eater she knows,” and also that Bailey is very organized day-to-day, but she is always laid-back and willing to go outside of her comfort zone. Banderas also mentioned her teammate is an avid photographer in her free time.
She also said Bailey has an exceptional taste in music.
“Even now she’ll text me a new song during the day, and it’s usually really good, and I remember back when we were like fifteen she would be like ‘hey look up so-and-so’ and I’d still listen to them this day.”
Bailey described Banderas as having an excellent taste in music, and as a good companion to bring along to any concert. She also says Diane is a “closet-graphic designer,” or could even put a movie together some day, and that she is one of the most patient people she knows—and even envies it at times.
Banderas will finish up a successful academic career this winter that includes a spot on the Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence the past two seasons, Summit League Honor Roll the past three seasons and being named a Summit League Distinguished Scholar a year ago.
She is also a member of the UNO Chancellor’s List and Dean’s List, and will be pursuing an exercise science internship in Florida with Impact Sports Performance.
Bailey has had tremendous academic success at UNO as well, earning a spot on the Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence two seasons ago, the Summit League Academic Honor Roll the past three seasons and a spot alongside Diane on the Summit League Distinguished Scholars list last year.
Bailey finished up a bachelor’s degree in Journalism last May on the UNO Chancellor’s and Dean’s Lists, and is currently pursuing graduate studies at UNO.
The two share a bond unlike any other pair of teammates in sports, maybe it’s the decade of playing together, the similar tastes in music or maybe just the two of their creative lifestyles colliding together, but Banderas put it simply and probably the best.
“Just having the relationship we have… it’s kind of just like we’re sisters,” she said. That’s kind of a cheesy way to put it, but we kind of just know each other.”