By People Staff
September 22, 1986 12:00 PM

How many O’Reilly sisters does it take to make a tennis coach happy? Ask Jane Preyer of Duke University, who recently learned that Christine, Terri and Patty O’Reilly would all be enrolling at the North Carolina campus this month.

“I was just hoping to get one,” Preyer says of the tennis-playing triplets from Ridgewood, N.J.—all straight-A students who each got multiple scholarship offers. The news that Duke had aced out such top-ranked tennis schools as Stanford and Notre Dame to claim a triple crown in freshman recruiting got Preyer so excited she had to take the afternoon off.

The 18-year-old trio, youngest of six children born to a financial consultant and his wife, look as similar in the stat books as they do in life. The Eastern Tennis Association ranks oldest sister Patty No. 1, second oldest Terri No. 3 and Christine No. 4 for their age group, and each has held the top spot at various times during their eight-year tournament careers. “On any given day,” begins Patty, “any one of us could win,” says Christine, clinching the point for her sometime doubles partner.

Though the sisters will live in separate dorms at Duke, attending the same school will at least save them “a lot of time talking on the phone,” says Christine. And leave more time for practice, hopes coach Preyer, who believes the O’Reillys just might lob Duke into the top 20 college teams for the first time ever.

Triplet brothers Perry, Phil and Paul Johnson, 22, will never share a tennis trophy, but that’s about all from the looks of it. As undergraduates at the University of Kansas, they drove the same car (a 77 T-Bird), shared the same major (chemistry), the same grade point average (a whopping 3.8) and, by graduation last June, matching Phi Beta Kappa keys. Now they’ve decided to shoot for the same career; this month the brothers start classes at the University of Kansas Medical School in Kansas City.

It was their father, Bob, 44, a construction company superintendent in Omaha, who first suggested medicine after he had done some carpentry work for a local physician. “The doctor griped about my prices,” he says, “but they were nothing compared to his.” While money wasn’t much of a lure for the boys, then only 8, the idea of medicine was. Perry now hopes to become a surgeon and Paul a psychiatrist. Phil is still undecided about a specialty.

At med school the brothers will be sharing a three-bedroom apartment—but only to minimize expenses, they insist. “Our common enemy,” says Perry, “is people who think we are all the same person with the same personality.” Once, he recalls, a girl asked him: “When you wake up and look in the mirror, do you know which one you are?” Says Perry with a grimace: “I just want to kill when I hear that.”