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Sisterhood of the traveling parents: Joki volleyball sisters keep family busy on the road

Ron and Beth Joki figure they have logged 20,000 miles on their Hyundai Santa Fe sport utility vehicle this fall to watch their two daughters play volleyball.

Brynn Joki
NDSU freshman right side hitter Brynn Joki. Photo courtesy of NDSU
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Ron and Beth Joki figure they have logged 20,000 miles on their Hyundai Santa Fe sport utility vehicle this fall to watch their two daughters play volleyball.

From their home in Grand Rapids, Minn., they have traveled west on U.S. Highway 2 to Grand Forks, N.D., to watch Erin play for the University of North Dakota volleyball team.

Other times, they have headed southwest toward Detroit Lakes, Minn., before hitting Highway 10 to Fargo to watch Brynn play for North Dakota State.

"We know those roads well," Beth said of the three-hour long trips. "Actually, it's pretty amazing the way their schedules have worked out."

Like the weekend when NDSU played in Greeley, Colo., and UND played an hour north in Laramie, Wyo.

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"We got two matches in for each of the girls," Beth said.

Then there was the same week when both girls were in Utah - with NDSU playing at Brigham Young and UND at Utah Valley. The Jokis pitched their tent in the Rocky Mountains.

"We went for 19 days and took in nine different matches," Beth Joki said.

What the Jokis have seen is both daughters having standout seasons.

Erin, a 5-foot-11 junior right side hitter, is the fourth-leading kills leader for a 19-6 UND team that is aiming for a Great West Conference championship.

Brynn, a 6-1 freshman right side hitter, is the fifth-leading kills leader for a 20-3 NDSU team that has already wrapped up a Summit League championship.

Last week, Brynn was named The Summit League offensive player of the week. One day later, Erin was named the Great West offensive player of the week.

"It was really weird hearing that," Brynn said of last week's announcements. "She told me, 'I got it too,' and I said, 'Really?' "

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Really. It should come as no surprise. The Joki sisters grew up with volleyball. Beth, an Aitkin, Minn., native who competed in volleyball, basketball and track at Minnesota-Duluth, was the longtime volleyball coach at Grand Rapids.

From the time they were in kindergarten, they attended most of their mom's practices - passing the ball back and forth to each other.

"The story we always tell is as soon as I was born and got out of the hospital, mom took me to a volleyball tournament," Erin said. "We were in the gym all the time."

They not only played with each other for four years in high school volleyball, they also competed in basketball and track. No surprise there, either. Their dad played basketball at Minnesota-Duluth.

"Playing with her in high school was a blast," Brynn said. "It would have been awesome to play with her again."

But NDSU head coach Erich Hinterstocker, knowing Brynn could make an immediate impact for his team, came calling. With UND still going through its transition to Division I while NDSU was advancing to the school's first NCAA tournament, Brynn picked the Bison.

"NDSU seemed a little more sturdy," Brynn said. "They just seemed to be going places a lot quicker than UND."

Erin supported Brynn's decision.

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"The reason she wanted to come here was because I was here," Erin said. "And the reason she wanted to go to NDSU was because I wasn't there. She had to pick a school on what she wanted to do. I think she made a good choice."

As a result, Beth and Ron are traveling to a lot more places. Ron, a systems analyst for Minnesota Power, has built up vacation time to watch his daughters play. Beth, who retired as volleyball coach last year, is now a personal trainer at the YMCA in Grand Rapids.

Next week, they'll fly to Houston to watch Erin play in the Great West tournament - UND's last matches of the season. They will miss Brynn playing in The Summit League tournament in Fargo.

"We're sending grandma and an aunt to Fargo," Beth said. "We're banking on the Bison winning that tournament so we can go to another game somewhere."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Brynn Joki
UND junior right side hitter Erin Joki. Photo courtesy of UND

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