Did it actually happen? Wayzata's Olivia Swenson wasn't quite sure.

She thought University of Minnesota volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon had just offered her a spot with the program when she graduates in 2024, but in all the excitement she couldn't be sure.

"It was last summer and he had, like, 15 other calls to make," Olivia said. "I've always had my heart set on Minnesota. I might have even started crying, I was so excited. But I couldn't remember if he actually made the offer.

"So I called him back and asked him. He was like, 'Well, yeah,' " Swenson said.

Well, yeah.

Yeah, there's room on the Gophers roster, and in the volleyball world, for one more Swenson, one more member of the first family of Twin Cities volleyball.

Olivia Swenson and her fraternal twin, Stella, are the latest budding superstars to emerge from the Swenson home in Minnetonka, following a largely predetermined path of volleyball excellence. Stella is also committed to the Gophers. They are juniors, Olivia a 6-4 outside hitter, Stella a 6-2 setter, together the power plant that fuels Wayzata, winner of the past two large-school state championships.

“There are probably 10,000 kids in the metro who would love to have the opportunities they've had. And they deserve them.”
Wayzata coach Scott Jackson

Youngest sister Eva is a 6-4 freshman for Wayzata. She's getting playing time with the varsity, and she's just now learning to play the vital setter position. She calls Stella "a goddess as a setter" and Olivia "an amazing hitter and all-around player."

Eldest sister Samantha is a former Metro Player of the Year and Ms. Volleyball winner, was a four-time All-America selection as a setter for the Gophers and was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2018. She's sitting out of volleyball for now after having a baby, and she's living in Italy, where her husband plays professionally. Known as Samantha Seliger-Swenson during her college days, she is Samantha Loeppky now.

Mother Vicki Swenson was a two-sport star at Tartan, played volleyball at Iowa State and coached high school volleyball at Hopkins for 25 years until 2020.

Father Erik played football at North Dakota and was a longtime high school football coach.

Cousin Tara Lee, who lived with the Swensons after the death of her mother, was an All-Metro setter at Hopkins.

To be a girl in the Swenson family means volleyball is as essential as food and drink.

"I would have loved to be a multi-sport athlete," Olivia said. "But we got into volleyball at such a young age; I learned to love volleyball. At the end of the day, it's volleyball that's in my heart."

The twins: Much the same and quite different

An understandable reason drove Olivia's concern about McCutcheon's offer. She had sat out the 2021 high school season and into the recruiting-centric club season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in her hip and have a protruding bone shaved. This is her first real high school campaign in front of the Wayzata fans.

Stella, on whom she had leaned her entire life, was honing her bountiful setting skills while Olivia sat. Stella got the offer to play at Minnesota a full three weeks before Olivia got hers. "Coaches like to lock down their setters early," Vicki said, referring to the crucial nature of the position, akin to a quarterback in football.

They sport many of the same quirks and mannerisms, but make no mistake: These twins are not copies of each other.

There's no denying the sisterly bond.

"The best part of being her sister is the humor," Stella said. "If you see us together, we're always laughing. The smallest thing can be hilarious and no one else gets what we're talking about."

That communication goes both ways. The sisters aren't afraid to let each other know if there's an issue on court.

"They're a joy to work with, and it's fun to watch two players who could be the best at what they do pursuing excellence," Wayzata coach Scott Jackson said. "Sometimes, I do feel like I'm a mediator at practice. It's like, 'OK, we're having a disagreement. Let's just move past it.' "

Like most sisters, each has pet peeves about the other, and they're more than willing to share.

Olivia: "We're best friends. I know everything about her, and she knows everything about me. There are moments when we fight and we're mad at each other. Like, she burps so loud you can hear her a mile away. It's so gross. It drives me insane."

Stella: "She barges into my room without knocking. That really grinds my gears."

Olivia: "And sometimes I'll take her hair-care products and that will get under her skin."

Petty grievances aside, both say neither would be anywhere close to what they've become — what they are still developing into — without the other.

"She knows me so well, what to say and how to be a good teammate," Olivia said. "We push each other so much that at times it seems like we're more like competitors. But we're also best friends."

Their differences become obvious once they step on the court. Stella is like Samantha was, lithe, smooth and steady, and adept at taking a misguided pass and turning it into a perfect set. She often leans on advice from Samantha, even though she is thousands of miles away.

The role of floor leader comes naturally to Stella, who is unapologetically self-confident.

"I'm just a very secure person and I know what level I can play at," she said. "It's just always been there. I have a lot of great people in my life who are always lifting me up."

Vicki loves the story of Stella as a seventh-grader, when she attended a University of Minnesota volleyball camp. "She hit this great topspin serve when Hugh McCutcheon was looking," Mom recalled. "She just looked over at him and did this" — Vicki mimicked her daughter pointing and winking toward McCutcheon — "like she was telling him, 'Hey did you see that? Where does that come from?' "

Stella, too, remembers that moment vividly. "I remember looking at him," she recalled. "I don't know if he remembers it, but it was a key moment for me."

From a different position, outside hitter, Olivia plays a larger, more powerful game. When opposing teams look to defend Wayzata, they focus on her.

"When they talk about who to stop, or at least slow down, it's Olivia they need to talk about," Jackson said. "She's come back and worked so hard coming back from her injury."

She admits that last year was likely the roughest one of her volleyball life, because she couldn't indulge her passion for the sport.

"It was hard because Stella was playing and I wasn't," Olivia said. "I learned so much watching. There were points where I was like, 'How do you do that?' Her confidence sometimes made me jealous."

Olivia and Stella and Wazyata teammate Sophia Johnson were among the star-studded Minnesota Select 17s team that made a splash in the Junior National Championships in Indianapolis last summer. They took second in the top, or Open, division.

There was a moment in the semifinals when Olivia, after months of battling back from injury, got the confirmation she was hoping for: Her game was on the right track.

A berth in the championship match was at stake, and Olivia was ready. She scored the winning point. "I got the last swing," she said. "That was so rewarding. We all knew that was going to stick with us forever."

"I was so proud of her," Stella said of her sister. "She's a really, really good player, and it was great to have her back."

High school trumps college … for now.

The Swenson twins spent last weekend on their official visits to the U, getting an up-close look at a program they have long been familiar with, dating to Samantha's days with the team.

Most familiar was the atmosphere at the Maturi Sports Pavilion, where the recruits and nearly 5,000 loud spectators watched the Gophers defeat Iowa 3-1 on Sunday. Stella, who had also given serious consideration to Wisconsin and Florida before committing to the Gophers, is a fan of the fans' passion.

"The Pav is always packed. Those other places have nothing on the Pav. The fans there are so invested."

Before they head the 15 miles or so east for their Gophers careers, there's still the matter of helping Wayzata win another state championship or two. The Trojans were back-to-back large-school champs in 2019 and 2021 — the state tournament was not played in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When I talk about them, I try to separate them because it's important that they keep their separate identities," Jackson said. "There are probably 10,000 kids in the metro who would love to have the opportunities they've had. And they deserve them."

Stella worries that not everybody sees that. "I feel like sometimes people look at us and think we've only gotten this because of our family," she said.

"We've worked so hard. Nothing has been handed to us. It takes a lot to be a Swenson. It's a big title to uphold."