MISSOULA — When identical twin sisters Lauren and Leanna Badger are on the court, it's hard to tell them apart.
They're donning the same white shirt, same black shorts, same black hat, same length of hair tied up in a pony tail.
The biggest difference between the pair that make up Missoula Sentinel's No. 1 doubles team is their shoes.
Both of the juniors rock gray shoes, but Lauren wears teal-accented Nikes, while Leanna wears Champions.
"We don't do that every day, but for tennis..." Leanna said, trailing off.
"We use it to our advantage," Lauren said, finishing her sister's sentence.
This time a year ago, the Badger sisters were in a completely different spot.
Last year, the twins were Sentinel's No. 4 doubles team.
"They still have a long way to go, they have a lot to learn, but I'm really proud of where they are now compared to where they were last year," Sentinel head coach Jennifer Keintz said. "They were beginners. We were teaching them how to hold their rackets when they first came onto Sentinel's team."
The progress didn't come overnight.
The two put in a lot of work over the offseason.
"We practiced a lot over the summer. We put in a lot of time, more than we did last year," Leanna said. "We're super excited."
Lauren added, laughing: "It's great because you have someone you can always go hit with to practice."
Lauren and Leanna are seeded third in the Western AA Divisional in Missoula, but didn't start off how they wanted.
After having a bye in the first round, the sisters dropped a close match to Missoula Hellgate's Elizabeth Bowles and Gwen Hoppe in three sets. Lauren and Leanna dropped the third set, 7-5.
Lauren and Leanna stayed positive after the match though, saying that they're just going to keep on working and improving, but most importantly, working together.
The two can still qualify for the State AA meet, but it's going to be a tough road. They need to win their next three matches to qualify for the tournament.
"For them to even have that shot of going to state makes all of the coaches proud, because they've worked hard and they've tried hard," Keintz said. "It would be nice to get them to state. It's still a long road and they have a lot of matches to go, and there's a lot of good teams in their way."
But they're a good team too. And being twins, at least sometimes, helps.
"For the most part, you can anticipate what the person is going to do," Leanna said. "We make a good team. We work really well together."
OTHER WESTERN AA DIVISIONAL NOTES:
All four No. 1 seeds made it through the first day of play unscathed.
No. 1 boys' singles seed, Missoula Big Sky's Liam Johnson, needed three sets to get past Sentinel's Jack Johnston. No. 1 boys' doubles seed, Sentinel's Cody Curtis and Ethan Violette, sailed into the third round after winning their match over Hellgate's Chris Ledyard and Cole Schmidt, 6-0, 6-1.
On the girls' side, No. 1 seed in girls' singles, Hellgate's Maya Nguyen-Haberneski, blanked her second round opponent and the top seeded Knight squad of Olivia Panarella and Hannah Worden moved into the third round with a 6-0, 6-1 win.