Layla (left) and London (right) Haberfield both play libero for the Mustangs. Credit: Courtesy | Cal Poly Athletics, 2022

Competing at the collegiate level is something that very few people are able to accomplish. It takes athletic skill, hard work and determination, and even then, sometimes that may not be enough. 

So, it is rare to find two siblings playing the same sport at the same time. It’s even rarer that these siblings play Division-I volleyball, play the same position and attend their parents’ alma mater. 

This is the case for redshirt sophomore libero Layla Haberfield and freshman libero London Haberfield, who both play for the Cal Poly volleyball team. 

Video by Avery Elowitt

Layla and London grew up in Encinitas, Cali., where both were standout volleyball players at La Costa Canyon High School. Older sister Layla was first encouraged to play volleyball by her father Ted.

“My dad thought I was going to be really tall, which didn’t end up happening, and so he [said] basketball or volleyball, and I chose volleyball,” Layla said.

London grew to love the sport by following in her sister’s footsteps.

“I always grew up looking up to Layla,” London said. “[Volleyball] was something she did and fell in love with and I was like ‘maybe I’ll try this out too.’”

Head coach Caroline Walters talked about how Layla and London each bring different personalities to the team as players and individuals.

“Layla is a little bit more reserved, calm, cool, and collected, and London is a little bit more spunky,” Walters said. “It definitely comes out in the way that they play too. London has a little more tenacity and is going to fly all over the court and Layla’s a little bit more calm and is going to do her job and fly under the radar. I think they do a good job of ‘yin and yanging’ each other out too.”

Walters added that together they both add exemplary characteristics to the program and their team-first culture.

“They’re both selfless individuals and hardworking,” Walters said. “They want what’s best for the team at all times.” 

Walters also mentioned the example set by Layla has paved the way for London to come in and have an impact in her first year on the team.

“Layla created the opportunity for London to come in because of how hard she worked and what she’s done during her time here,” Walters said. “Having London come in and join our group this fall has been nothing short of amazing and watching them be able to have this cool sibling bond and the shared experience in Division-I athletics is something that they and their family will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Recently, London has gotten to play a large role in important victories over CSU Bakersfield and Hawaii. She earned a start in the final sets against Bakersfield and has continued that momentum throughout Big West play since. 

“[London’s] figured her serve out, and we need someone in that serving position to come in and get teams out of system,” Walters said. “She’s also shown that she can dig balls in those moments, and she’s put together some key runs.”

Though Layla hasn’t gotten as many opportunities this season, she will continue to be London’s number-one supporter, and she knows when her opportunity comes, London will do the exact same.

“Being able to watch her play has been so fun,” Layla said. “When I’m on the sideline, I try to hype her up and give her words of advice, calm her nerves if she’s nervous. It’s been awesome to see her grow her confidence on the court.”

Talking about her own opportunities this season, London said she “never thought [she’d] be in this position.”

“Having [Layla] cheer me on, if she plays or if I play, it’s like we are playing [together],” London said. “No matter what, we’ll always hype each other up.”

It’s clear the bond Layla and London share extends far beyond the volleyball court. Though volleyball is an important part of their lives, their bond as siblings comes first.

Even though there may be potential competition as players, Layla and London will always support one another, they said.

Layla mentioned the question of competition and how some may see it as a negative.

“People on the outside make it a bigger deal than it is,” Layla said. “I think we do a really good job of just lifting each other up when we are doing good. We never hope that the other person does bad. If she does good, I am so happy. And I know it’s vice versa.”

London echoed that sentiment by emphasizing the fact that, above all else, the pairing will always be sisters.

“Even in practice or games, we are sisters before we are teammates,” London said. “No matter what, I don’t think volleyball would ever come between our bond.”