Twin sisters Esha and Arya Cyril are seniors at the Quarry Lane school in Dublin and are quite the accomplished students.
Both are exceptional students, and both are currently working through the college application process, applying to some of the top academic institutions in the United States.
But the duo is also something else - they are two of the top junior racquetball players in the country.
Playing out of the Bay Club in Pleasanton (formerly Club Sport), the sisters have been making news in both the classroom and on the racquetball courts for some time now.
“We started playing in 2014,” said Esha Cyril, one of the soon-to-be 17-year-olds. “We used to play badminton, but Elaine Dexter (a long time Pleasanton racquetball instructor) got us to try racquetball and we loved it instantly.”
“Racquetball is just different,” said Arya. “I like the sound it makes when you hit the ball and I love how fast the game is.”
Once they figured out racquetball would be their sport of choice, they ventured out locally.
“We started playing local tournaments and just got destroyed,” said Esha. “We then started training with Bobby Horn (another local instructor) and we started getting better.”
About a year later the duo felt comfortable enough to make the trip to a national tournament in Minneapolis.
“When we played that national tournament at 11 – that was the turning point for me,” said Esha.
“Right after that first national tournament,” said Arya of when she knew she could be good. “We saw the racquetball community and saw how committed they were to the sport.”
They came back and started playing in adult leagues at their club.
“The (adult) players taught us so much,” Esha.
Since then, there has been nothing but an ascension for the duo up the Junior Racquetball ranks. This past summer they competed in the USA Racquetball National Junior Championships in Iowa.
Esha won gold in mixed-doubles with her partner while Arya took the silver medal. Arya won the gold for singles Division A for girls 16, and Esha earned the silver for the same division. The twins also took silver in girls doubles for age 16 and brought home six medals together.
There have been other highlights along the way, like representing the United States in the Junior Worlds in Minnesota.
“We played in the girls doubles and that is something I will never forget,” said Esha. “It was such an honor to represent the United States.”
Then there was the time in the High School Nationals in Oregon when the two faced another pair of twins in the doubles’ semifinals.
“That was a huge thing,” said Arya. “It was live streamed. They were from Oregon and the stands were packed. We won, but it was like a 2-hour match.”
There have been numerous other awards, both on and off the court.
USA Racquetball honored the girls in early 2021 with the Real Racquetball Champion Award (first juniors so far) for going above and beyond off the court toward the betterment and growth of the sport within the community.
They also have several other awards for their community service both national and international.
They are youth advocates for JoinJade - Asian Liver Center at Stanford University, RDLA Youth Ambassador and Youth Leader and Researcher for South Asian Youth Mental Health where they are working on research and developing curriculum.
If how successful the twins have been on the racquetball court wasn’t enough of a story, the success in the classroom is greater and arguably more impressive.
They spend four to five hours a day doing homework and skipped the U.S. Open last week in Minnesota because it is college application time and that (rightly) takes priority.
Both are driven on and off the court and even with 20-plus hours spent each week hitting the books, the two always find time to hit the ball as well.
“It has always been a challenge,” said Esha of balancing school work and racquetball practice. “We try to practice 3-4 days a week and we take advantage of our weekends. During the summer is when we advance our games the most.”
Arya admits the balancing takes something away from her racquetball game, but also appreciates what the sport does for her academics.
“If I was able to put in more time, I would be better,” said Arya of racquetball. “Sports in general helps me a lot – it is very stress relieving.”
When asked if racquetball made her a better student, Arya didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” she said.
As their senior year at Quarry Lane is moving along, the duo is looking forward to one final trip to the High School Nationals in February.
“We love representing our school,” said Esha.
While their sights are set on Nationals, the biggest decisions of their lives are looming – college decision. Both want to play racquetball for the college they choose, but will it be a package deal for the two?
“I don’t know if we will end up at the same school – but that would be great,” said Esha. “We both want to play and want to continue to grow the game.”
One of the last questions I asked the two and perhaps the one you all are wondering – who wins when they play?
“It changes, but (Arya) will say it’s her,” said Esha with a laugh.
“No - it switches off,” said Arya, also laughing. “When we play each other, it’s not as competitive – it’s friendlier. When we play each other in the finals it’s more fun like when we practice. There have been times we made it to the finals that we didn’t play and just took the medals to save ourselves for doubles.”