Hush sisters leave mark on tennis team

Sister acts are almost cliché in tennis. Venus and Serena Williams even made a Doublemint Gum commercial together, playing off of their sibling rivalry in the sport.

Marquette’s women’s tennis program is no stranger to pedigree — its own share of familial talent has passed through over the last 35 years. Since the team’s inaugural season in 1975, six sets of sisters have made their mark with the Golden Eagles.

Here to leave another family legacy are Rachael and Gillian Hush.

In the beginning, Gillian, a sophomore, did not intend to follow her older sister to Marquette. She wanted to be different.

“I wanted my own space, and I didn’t want to go where my sister went,” Gillian said. “But everything just seemed to fall into place.”

Parents Ken and Michelle said they stayed out of the decision-making as they helped the women through the recruiting process.

“We went out of our way not to influence it at all,” Ken said. “But as the thought developed, knowing the two girls, they probably wouldn’t have let it happen to not be together.”

Michelle agreed — she secretly hoped her daughters would end up on the same team.

“I have a feeling that if Gillian did go someplace else, there would be a pretty good chance she would transfer to Marquette,” Michelle said.

And if the women were to be pitted against each other representing different schools in dual play? Forget it.

“We joked about it, that in the end one of them had to give up tennis versus competing with each other,” Ken laughed.

Competing against each other was nearly a reality, and this weekend brings the duo back to where it all began.

After a trip to Madison two years ago, Gillian came to Milwaukee to see Wisconsin, her first-choice school, play her sister’s team. Though the Badgers wooed her, something else clicked during her recruiting visit at Marquette.

Gillian’s need for independence diminished when she felt the energy and camaraderie of the Golden Eagles.

Rachael, a junior, couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out. They’ll even be sharing an apartment next year, their first experiment living together without parental supervision.

“I think that both of us have helped each other step out of our box,” Rachael said. “We’ve made each other better people.”

With parents who played collegiate tennis as well, Rachael said she and her sister had the sport in their blood.

And working together helped them develop their skills more than if they maintained a rivalry.

“(Rachael) is such a hard worker,” Gillian said. “It made me motivated to work just as hard and to do just as well as she did.

“I felt like I always had the drive to beat her because she was older, and so she made me better.”

They didn’t play together much in high school, but found success in doubles last season, ending with the team’s top record, 14-5.

Coach Jody Bronson has noticed more than their tennis skills develop as the sisters have been working together the past two years.

“I think they have become closer since they’ve both been here,” Bronson said. “There’s that respect for what they’re both doing and how difficult it is. They’ve grown a lot.”

The last pair of sisters on the team, Ana and Sara Hernandez, led the Golden Eagles to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and a Conference-USA Championship in 1999, and they dominate the record books.

The Hush women aren’t quite Venus and Serena, nor are they Ana and Sara, but they have definitely shined this season.

Gillian went from barely being in the lineup to having the best singles record on the team this year, 9-3 in dual play from spots 4, 5 and 6.

Rachael and doubles partner Christina Ruiz have been virtually unstoppable since September, dropping only four of 21 matches. At No. 1 this spring, they are 9-3.

On Saturday, Marquette (7-5) looks to improve these records in matches against Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

As the Badgers and Golden Eagles faced off a few years ago, Milwaukee was where the Hush sisters found their path. Now, it’s where they leave their legacy.