Some say it's "in the genes."
Some call it "pedigree."
While not always the case, it's not unusual to learn the background of an outstanding athlete and find a parent — or two — who also stood out athletically.
At Torrey Pines High School
in San Diego, the gene pool is so deep some opponents have dubbed the Falcons' unbeaten and No. 2-ranked volleyball squad
, "Team DNA."
That's because five Falcons have fathers who are former professional athletes:
• Maddy Kerr's
dad, Steve, played in the NBA. Kerr has five championship rings (three with the Chicago Bulls, two with the San Antonio Spurs).
• Ryann Chandler's
dad, Chris, spent 17 seasons as an NFL quarterback and played in Super Bowl XXXIII.
• Reily Buechler's
dad, Jud, retired from the NBA having won three championship rings with the Bulls during his 13-year career.
• Aimee Stephenson's
dad, Doug, played for the Buffalo Bills and in three Rose Bowls for Michigan.
• Savannah Rennie's
dad, Bill, is a former world-ranked tennis professional.
The five Falcons are key members of a Torrey Pines team coming off an impressive title run at last weekend's prestigious Durango Invitational in Las Vegas. The team defeated defending champion Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), 2-1, to capture the tournament title and run its 2012 record to 8-0.
"We don't necessarily like the name Team DNA," said Madison Dutra
, a 6-2 Torrey Pines outside hitter who was named all-tournament at Durango. "Everyone is expecting them to be incredible athletes, which they are. But they don't need their dads' names behind them to be known."
Setter Chandler and libero Kerr, both seniors, were also all-tournament in Vegas and junior outside hitter Buechler was tourney MVP.
Santa Clara-bound Dutra said her "well-known" teammates are getting noticed on their own. Chandler has committed to Pepperdine, Kerr to California and Buechler to UCLA.
"The name (Team DNA) isn't really a distraction," said Chandler "None of us think of it anyway and no one acknowledges it."
Chandler said she thinks it helps having fathers who have been in stressful game-time situations.
"They know how to help us with that," said the 5-foot-11 Chandler. "Steve (Kerr) and Jud (Buechler) are like my second dads. They offer us helpful advice. It's funny to watch them watch us. They are so nervous."
Chandler said the best advice her dad has given her is "When times get tough, never give up. Not playing well makes you grow as a player. Make it a benefit and learn from it."
"I see it (Team DNA) as a pro," said teammate Jennie Frager
, who has committed to UCLA. "Their parents have great backgrounds. They always offer us positive advice. They work with us on the mental side of things."
Having five players with celebrity fathers hasn't changed a thing in the gym for coach Brennan Dean.
"They've performed in stressful situations where other parents might not, but I don't look at them any differently," said Dean. "They are just like normal parents to me."
Kerr said, "bottom line is that we want to be know as Torrey Pines and that we play well together. Everyone on this team is a huge contributor."
That certainly was the case in Las Vegas when the Falcons won 14 of 16 games in winning all seven of their matches.
Dean said the strength of this year's team is "cohesiveness. They've been playing together for a long time. Most are on the same club team. We have a lot of weapons and can put the ball on floor in almost every single position."
"A lot of weapons" might be an understatement — Dean expects nine Falcons to play D-1 volleyball.
In addition to Frager, Chandler, Dutra, Buechler, and Kerr, 6-2 outside senior hitter Katelyn Cuff
has committed to Colorado and Dean expects Rennie and Stephenson also to play at a high level.
A counselor at Torrey Pines, Dean said the key to any team's success is hard work and team chemistry.
"We talk about the importance of team chemistry," said Dean, who also coaches high-level club volleyball. "All 40 girls in the program went to a team retreat and the freshmen feel just as involved and as important as the full-ride UCLA senior."
Dean said every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the retreat was spent on team building, goal setting, bonding and talking about trust.
"We discuss the mental part of the game before every practice," he said. "It takes talent, luck and hard work to win championships, and you can control only one of those. We all know that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
DNA has little to do with that, but "Team DNA" will get a lot of attention when Torrey Pines participates in the Nfinity Battle on the Plains Sept. 26 at Creighton University against No. 1 ranked Papillion LaVista-South (Neb.) and No. 3 ranked Assumption.
"The strongest part of this team is that we are totally a team and have a strong desire to win," said Dutra. "We don't have one person who leads our team, but it's everyone and we all focus on each aspect of the game. We all want to be successful for one another."
Indeed it is Torrey Pines — not "Team DNA" — that is unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country.