For some, college is an opportunity to gain more independence from family. But for sister athletes Erika and Andrea Roach, The University of Findlay has enabled them to strengthen their bond.
Both are marketing majors who have helped UF’s Oiler Volleyball team secure a berth in the national championships, which marks the first time since 2003 that the team has advanced to that level. Members will face off against Hillsdale College in the first round of the NCAA national tournament’s Midwest Regional at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.
The Roaches came from Littleton, Colorado. What brought them to Findlay involved a mix of career aspiration, sisterly love and tragedy.
Andrea started her college career at Missouri University of Science and Technology, majoring in business management, but after taking some classes, the major didn’t interest her as much as she hoped it would. She then transferred to UF as a sophomore. She said she was lured here by the school’s experiential learning emphasis, supportive atmosphere and the competitiveness of its volleyball program. When she took a business class with Professor S. Chris Ward, Ed.D., Andrea said she became hooked on marketing, which has allowed her to still maintain a business-focused trajectory.
“I found a good fit here,” Andrea noted.
Erika began examining colleges at the end of her sophomore year in high school. She enrolled at UF as an undecided major, but was intrigued by the University’s academic breadth. “This school had more specific majors that I hadn’t seen before,” she said. “I initially didn’t think I wanted to go to school with my sister,” she admitted. In her final high school years, she enjoyed gaining recognition on her own instead of as “Andrea’s little sister,” she said. “But as I got older and matured more, I realized how much I missed her. After I visited Findlay, I committed a week later,” Erika explained.
Originally from Ohio, the Roach sisters were also drawn to UF because they have extended family that live in the southeastern part of the state. What also factored heavily into their college choices was their 54-year-old father, Dave Roach’s fatal heart attack.
“That was the pivotal point for me. I learned how much I really valued family,” said Andrea.
The death “gave me a whole different perspective,” Erika maintained. “Before that, I was looking at schools in Texas. This changed everything.”
Although the girls had relocated with their remarried mother, Ellen Bennett, to Colorado, their father had remained heavily involved in their lives. Andrea and Erika said he attended as many of their sporting events as he could, encouraged them when they got frustrated, and supported them in all of their endeavors. Cherished memories were created during Florida beach vacations.
“He was the most easy person to talk to,” said Erika. “In an elevator full of strangers, he could just bust out a joke and get everyone laughing.”
As a successful attorney, he instilled a competitive spirit in his daughters. “He was always into our volleyball careers, and pushed us to be the best we could. He was my No. 1 fan,” said Andrea.
Part of Dave Roach’s influence is exhibited in daughter Andrea, who made first team all-conference and all-state in high school; and in college, GLIAC honorable mention and GLIAC all-academic honors. It is also evident in daughter Erika, who in high school made first team all-conference her junior and senior years, made first team all-state her senior year, and holds her school’s record for kills and career hit percentage. As a UF freshman, she also earned a starting position on the team, which isn’t common.
Why volleyball? Andrea said she loves the competitiveness of it. “It’s a strategy game. So much is mental. Erika and I played in high school together and it became this whole family ordeal, with everyone going to the games. My father’s death motivated me to play for him and make him proud,” she said.
As a left-handed player, Andrea likes to play the position of front row, right-side hitter. “Blocking and killing the ball are my strengths,” she noted.
Erika began playing in fourth grade and started travel play in sixth grade. “I genuinely look forward to practice every day,” she said. She also enjoys playing the front row, attacking and blocking.
Given that they’re completely attuned to each other’s moves and strategies, the sisters, when they play together, create a fierce offensive and defensive wall.
The built-in family support during games, on the bench, and in practice is also nice, the two contended. “Somebody is always there for you,” Erika pointed out. “We always have each other to go to and vent, and find comfort.”
Both praised head coach Wick Colchagoff, whom they said has always been supportive of them, on and off the court. Assistant Coach Annie Coger has also been very helpful, they said.
“Andrea has had a tremendous senior year with the third highest hitting percentage on the team and stepping up her overall game,” said Colchagoff. “As a senior captain she has provided leadership both on and off the court. I know she will be successful beyond UF when she graduates.”
Erika has also greatly contributed to the team’s success this season, Colchagoff explained. “She had an outstanding match with 18 kills at Grand Valley in a key win for us. She is one of my favorite players because she always has a smile on her face. She also likes to sing and often will start singing on the bus and get the whole team going. It’s like a scene out of ‘Pitch Perfect,’” he said.
Academically, they’ve only taken one course together, philosophy, and have different study habits. Although they were born only 13 months apart, the older sister, Andrea said she has naturally assumed a “motherly role.” Erika said she considers Andrea to be a role model.
Ward pointed out the sisters not only look alike, but are excellent students. Greto Corporation, a Lima-based packaging supply company, immediately offered Andrea an internship as soon as they interviewed her, she said. She was also a Dana Scholar, and Erika is currently in the College of Business’ Sophomore Leadership program. But, “while the two sisters are close in age and share a passion for volleyball and marketing, they have distinct personalities,” Ward noted. “If I said one was more serious and the other more laid back, could you guess the Roach sister?”
Andrea has enough credits to wrap up her studies this semester, but will instead squeeze in one more internship this the spring. For summer 2016, after graduation, she already has a full-time business analyst position waiting for her at Cisco Systems, Inc., in North Carolina.
Erika obviously wishes her well, but said it’ll be “weird” not having her sister around.