Whether in person or on paper, it’s hard to tell the difference between USC women’s water polo seniors Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis.Both stand tall at 5-foot-11 with long, blonde hair. Both are All-American drivers in the pool for the Trojans, having led USC to an undefeated 2016 season that culminated in the program’s fifth national championship last May. They have the same walk, similar mannerisms and laugh the same way. They also share the same classes, like the same foods and even live together.All things considered, it’s exactly what you would expect from a pair of identical twin sisters.Stephania and Ioanna grew up in Greece, swimming and playing on the same water polo team together since the age of 12. But after citing a desire to get accustomed to the American style of water polo, they packed up their things and moved to Orange County, where they attended Corona del Mar High School their senior year.It was a long journey from Athens to Los Angeles, but it was a decision that has paid off greatly for them and for USC’s storied water polo program.Now in their final collegiate season, Stephania and Ioanna have racked up numerous individual accolades and continue to climb the ladder in the USC record books. After starting out the season at No. 8 all-time in career scoring, Stephania has jumped all the way up to No. 4 all-time with 221 career goals, while Ioanna, who started at No. 20 all-time, now stands at No. 14 with 141 career goals. The twins currently lead the undefeated Trojans in scoring this season as well, as Stephania is tops on the team with 36 goals, followed by Ioanna with 23 goals.After 21 years of being attached at the hip, you’d think that the Haralabidis’ would be sick of each other by now. That’s hardly the case. Instead, they’ll tell you that their relationship is as close as it gets.Design by: Sophia Chen“We’re best friends. She’s my other half,” Stephania said.Ioanna agreed, in almost identical fashion.“I don’t know what I’d do without her,” she said. “She’s my best friend.”Outside of the pool, the Haralabidises share many other aspects of their lives as well. For example, while Stephania is an international relations major and Ioanna is a communication major, a marketing minor has allowed them to take at least one class with each other every semester since they’ve been at USC. While most twins might look to branch out and explore their individuality as they grow older, sharing their experiences has just become part of the norm for these sisters.“We love to do things together,” Stephania said.“We are different people,” Ioanna added. “But we’re so used to being together that it’s just…”“Natural,” Stephania finished.The concept of “twin telepathy” is also something that the sisters feel is extremely beneficial to them as teammates.“We’ve worked together for so long that I know exactly where she wants the ball, when, and how in order for her to score,” Ioanna said.And while “Jo” may cite herself as the better defender, “Stef” is considered the better scorer. That balance has allowed the two to feed off of each other well in game situations.“We both have our own strengths,” Stephania said. “But when we combine them together, we make a really strong force and you can see it when we play.”It’s a unique relationship and a bond that not many others can replicate, and their successes both in and out of the water are a testament to that.However, that’s not to say that the two always see eye to eye. For example, Stephania isn’t fully convinced that she and her sister are actually identical twins, while Ioanna insists they are. Ioanna also claims that she was born one minute earlier, but Stephania is skeptical about that as well.“Our mom said it was only 30 seconds, but whatever,” she said.There’s also plenty of room for a friendly sibling rivalry.“We do like to get competitive,” Stephania said. “We’ll get into it and start beating each other up.”“We push each other all the time, even in our swim sets,” Ioanna agreed. “But then we’ll just laugh about it later.”“We are Greeks though,” Stephania added. “We’re intense people. It’s just part of us.”A little back and forth every now and then helps keep their relationship strong, and with lofty goals for the future, the twins know that they’ll always have each other to lean on.While their future is still up in the air, Stephania and Ioanna are focused on taking care of business in their final collegiate season together at USC.“I want to go out with a bang,” Stephania said. “I want to win a national championship with the people that I love, and I want it to be something special for my teammates and for my sister.”For Ioanna, it’s about enjoying the time she has left at USC with her sister.“I love this place and I love playing with Stef, so I’m just going to make the most of every moment that I have here with her,” she said.Rarely will you see one Haralabidis twin in the water without the other, and by the looks of it, it’s probably going to stay that way for a long time.
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