While Cal Poly women’s tennis sisters and teammates Delanie and Peyton Dunkle have varying differences such as age, dominant hand and height, their relationship has been integral to their performance on the tennis court.
“Being sisters is just another connection that we have that is even stronger than being a teammate,” Delanie said.
Their close relationship started at a young age when they both started playing tennis. However, as siblings do, they argued. They could never practice together without getting into an argument about the score, Delanie said.
Their sibling rivalry continued at nearby Arroyo Grande High School. When the Dunkles finally had the opportunity to compete against each other for the Central Section League championship, Delanie defeated her younger sister.
Now the two sisters are always on the same side.
They wear green and gold for the Cal Poly women’s tennis team and according to them, they have learned to grow from each other now that they are on the same team.
“Now, since we are on the same team rather than competing against each other, we compete together for a greater purpose,” Delanie said. “I think being on this team together has brought us closer rather than being rivals.”
The presence of Delanie, a redshirt sophomore, has especially helped her freshman sister this season. After not getting the results she liked in the 2021 fall season, Peyton currently holds the best singles record on the team at 6-2 this spring.
Although it was a “rough transition” from playing high school to college girls, according to Peyton, she credits her success to her sister for giving her tips along the way such as “settling into things” and “enjoying the experience.”
Along with Peyton receiving plenty of pieces of advice from her older sister, she also said she feels more comfortable with Delanie on the team.
“At first, I was overwhelmed, especially with all the hype around Delanie,” Peyton said. “After talking to Delanie and getting those tips from her, I settled in and played my game now.”
The “hype” around Delanie came from her impressive showings early in her collegiate career. In her true freshman season, she finished 6-1 in singles dual matches from the No. 3 and 4 spots in the Cal Poly lineup. Along with this stellar play in singles, she went 5-3 in doubles with fellow redshirt sophomore Melissa LaMette.
In her redshirt freshman year, she went 11-4 in singles primarily from the No. 4 spot in the lineup while going 6-1 in Big West play. In doubles, she went 9-6 overall and 6-1 in conference play with LaMette from the No. 2 spot.
Her success last season earned her Big West Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week in April. So far this season, Delanie is 2-5 in singles and a team-leading 5-1 in doubles.
Both Delanie and Peyton attribute their success during their collegiate careers to their father, Bill Dunkle who played at UC Santa Barbara and the professional ranks for a while. He made things fun for the both of them when they were younger and had Delanie and Peyton play matches to 100 points, which Delanie credits with helping them with their intensity in doubles.
“The way we approach our game is very similar because we have both been taught by our dad,” Delanie said. “Tennis was always a big thing for me. Tennis was the sport that everyone must try at least in our family.”
While the Dunkles spent their childhood competing against each other, they feel that it has made them grow as players.
“If anything, it was more of a healthy rivalry because we pushed each other to become better,” Peyton said.