Sydney Yogi

Volleyball

Rachel Adams is one of four seniors on the LonghornsÂ’ roster. Along with Michelle Kocher, Amber Roberson and Sydney Yogi, Adams has helped Texas advance to three consecutive Final Fours. Texas faces Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA tournament Thursday.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

When the four members of the recruiting class of 2008 came to the 40 Acres, they were a mixed bunch, hailing from all over the country, including Hawaii, Ohio, Illinois and Texas.

Despite their geographical differences, for Texas’ benefit, the group came together quickly. Rachael Adams, Amber Roberson, Sydney Yogi and Michelle Kocher have had one of the most successful runs on the court by a class in Texas history. They have appeared in three Final Fours in as many years and have a chance to make it four in a row this season as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s pretty special. It’s very rare for a class to go to four Final Fours in four years.” Kocher said. “We’re an interesting bunch coming from all parts of the world, so we have a good mix and get along real well and I feel that really helps us on the court.”

When the four players entered the doors of Gregory Gym their freshman year, there were high expectations, but it’s hard for them to believe that they have accomplished as much as they have.

“I came here with the intent of winning championships, and that is part of the reason why I picked Texas, because I believed [head coach] Jerritt [Elliott] and the rest of the coaching staff was capable of winning a championship,” Yogi said.

Winning championships is something they have certainly done. This year’s senior class has won three Big 12 titles. However, they still have their eyes set on a more meaningful banner to hang in Gregory, bigger than the ones commemorating the Big 12 championships and the Final Four appearances.

“I still feel that there is plenty of room for at least one or two more banners up there,” Roberson said with a grin, looking up at the empty space next to the program’s sole national championship banner.

Even if the senior class doesn’t accomplish their goal, the impact that they have made on the program has already been felt. Texas volleyball has taken a clear step forward in its level of play and in recruiting since their arrival, as evidenced by the 2011 recruiting class that includes three of the top 15 recruits in the nation.

“It’s definitely crazy to think that’s what we’ve done because we walk around thinking it’s normal, but really it’s not,” Roberson said. “We have to take a step back and realize this is what you are doing and what you have done for the program. It’s nice to know everyone appreciates that.”

Their time here is not quite through and they would still like to accomplish the group’s ultimate goal.

“Winning a national championship would be a huge accomplishment. We’ve taken a step each year as far as growing as a team and this is the year to put it all together. It would be the ultimate conclusion to our four years here,” Roberson said.

Lighting the tower orange would be the sweetest reward of all for the lumps and bruises these four seniors have taken to make themselves better.

“It would show how much our hard work pays off,” Yogi said. “We have stayed all summer the past three summers training early in the morning and doing things on our own to get better. I think the reward of winning a national championship will be so, so sweet, showing that our hard work in our time here did pay off.”

Printed on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 as: Texas trying to reach fourth straight Final Four

Hawaii is know for its sandy beaches, great weather and relaxing environment, but around Austin, the Aloha state is know for producing the excellent defensive volleyball players Sydney Yogi and Sarah Palmer.

Last year, Texas starting libero Yogi went down with an injury late in the season. It was Palmer, her backup, who filled in nicely for her.

A freshman, Palmer received instrumental advice and support from Yogi during that period, who coached her through the finer points of playing libero. The advice was helpful because Palmer played an attacking position in high school, outside hitter, and was still working to adjust to playing the defensive libero slot.

“She was always there to cheer me on and support me if I had any questions, and was always there on the bench for me,” Palmer said. “During the final four, she actually wrote me a couple of notes telling me what I should be doing, and staying in that libero mentality, which really helped. I really appreciate all of her support she gave me last season.”

The pair’s journey to Austin started with Yogi, when she committed to Texas over four years ago. While the 40 Acres is a significant distance away from her home in the pacific, when she visited campus, she knew it was the right environment for her.

“I don’t think you can deny the kind of pride that you see when you come and visit the campus,” Yogi said. “It’s like nowhere else you can imagine, burnt orange everywhere is kind of hard to miss. I think you feel a real sense of community here — it’s a just a real special place to be.”

When it came time for Palmer to make a commitment to a school, she looked to Yogi, whose parents are family friends, for advice about the Texas program. Which is when Yogi posed the question, “What better place in the U.S. is there?”

Palmer agreed and decided to come to the Lone Star state.

Yogi doesn’t feel that she had a large influence on Palmer’s decision, though, but she does feel that she made the right choice.

“I didn’t try to convince her to come her or anything, but I answered he questions honestly, and in the end, I think she made a really smart decision,” Yogi said with a wry smile.

Both players have adjusted well to Austin, an immensely different environment in comparison to Hawaii, and love certain aspects of the capital city.

“Austin is so lively,” Palmer said. “There’s always something going on. On any given night, I can look up and see what’s going on and I can find something that would interest me. As opposed to Hawaii where I would just sit around and watch TV or chill with my friends.”

There are certain aspects of Hawaii that are hard to replace though, like the beach. But both players mentioned one thing specifically that is hard to go without.

“The food is definitely the thing I miss the most, my family does kind of a good job sending stuff over, but there are just some things you can’t ship,” Yogi said.

While the food might not compare to their usual Hawaiian diet, they both have found a home in Austin and are a huge part of the No. 8 ranked Longhorns, success. Yogi, Palmer and the rest of the team will be back in action tonight against rival Oklahoma who they went 2-0 against last year.

Sydney Yogi makes a play on the ball in a recent game for the Longhorns.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Sydney Yogi stands out.

As the Longhorns take the court for introductions, their height is obvious when you go down the line and you see players between 6 feet 1 inch and 6 feet 5 inches. Then in a bit of comical irony, the 5-foot-2-inch Yogi is introduced.

The senior, though, stands tall in a line-up of giants.

Yogi plays the libero position for the team and also sticks out on the court because of the black jersey she wears, instead of the home colors of orange and white.

The libero position is a specialized defense player who stays in the back row, cannot hit and doesn’t count for a sub.

They are usually the shortest players on the court and the team leaders in digs and keeping plays alive; they also are a great help to coaches, as they can be switched out without penalty.

“It is useful to the game because now that you can have a lot of hitters that do not play defense in and not waste a sub on that,” Yogi said.

Texas was without its starting libero for the end of last season, as Yogi was sidelined by a hip injury. Now, she’s back and completely healthy after a summer of rehab work.

“It’s good, I’m back, and I’m 100 percent. It was definitely a very frustrating last year though,” Yogi said.

Her return is an excellent addition to the talented offense group that Texas has up front. Yogi serves as a defensive specialist on the back line, adding a dimension to the team that was missing at the end of last year, when she was injured.

“Sydney has come back strong after last year. It’s a big piece for us especially after losing Sha’Dare [McNeal] right now and for holding down our passing,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “She’s also the one that is directing the back court; we need someone to teach our younger players how to be organized back there and [understand] the things that they’re supposed to be seeing. When you have someone back there that’s a senior with the experience she has, it’s a big bonus for us.”

Yogi is a part of a senior class that has been to the Final Four three times in three years, and would love to make it a four for four. This time however, she would like to seal the deal with a national title.

“It would be the cherry on top of a perfect four years here. We’ve been through our ups and downs, and I think our loss to Penn State two years ago was the most disappointing in all of our eyes,” she said. “But if we could finish it, especially because it’s in San Antonio with a lot of our fans there, it would be awesome to say the least.”

Yogi knows her family will be there with her for the ride, despite the fact that they live in Hawaii. She says her mom tries to be at as many games as possible every year and has already attended the tournament in California this year.

“My mom is racking up some crazy airlines this season, especially since it’s my last year,” she said with a laugh.

Looking forward past volleyball, she is looking to go to pharmacy school. For now though, she wouldn’t mind playing overseas after her time as a Longhorn, to earn a little money.

“I would be open to playing overseas for a while if the opportunity presents itself, and I could make a little money to pay for school so that would be nice.”

That’s in the future though. As of now, she is only focused on one thing — helping the Longhorns reach the Final Four and obtaining the national title that has eluded her so far.

Printed on September 15, 2011 as: Yogi focused on return to Final Four

Senior libero Sydney Yogi will look to lead her young teamates to yet another final four in 2011.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

A lot of attention this season has been focused on the youth in the Longhorn’s squad. After four games, the team has proven it is ready to compete. But a team is not a team without leaders — and the seniors on the squad are prepared to do that. Rachael Adams, Sydney Yogi, Michelle Kocher and have been to three final fours in their three years in burnt orange. But now they plan to take Texas even farther.

“We have a very young team and what they need now is an example and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” Adams said. “Each day come in and take no days off and hopefully they can follow in my footsteps and work just
as hard.”

So far this season, Adams has not disappointed her teammates. In Sunday’s game against Israel, she had 11 kills on 14 error-free swings and hit .786. On Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, she had a career-best three service aces. A senior with vast experience, she’s leading by example.

“As a senior, I have to step up and lead the team,” Adams said. “I’ve had some great leaders who have came before me and they’ve done some great things and I’m trying to do that just like them.”

Adams said former Longhorn Juliann Faucette, who she was teamed with at the 2010 USA Volleyball Open National Championship, is an inspiration to her.

Junior Sha’Dare McNeal spoke of Adams’ importance.

“Rachael is a very competitive player,” McNeal said. “The things that she does, I’ve never seen any middle do before. I feel like everybody contributes something to the team and with her athleticism, it makes us a little more steady in the middle.”

Yogi, a libero, said the experience she and her fellow seniors have helps them with the underclassmen. In addition, the seniors understand and remember what it was like being new at Texas and to the volleyball program.

“It is a completely different game than high school or club,” Yogi said. “They come in and the first couple days of practice you can tell they are kind of shell-shocked as to the speed of the game and the intensity of practices.”

And that’s where the seniors come in.

“I think us four seniors have a lot more weight on our shoulders I think just because we have that experience,” Yogi said. “We have a lot of younger girls who are going to get significant playing time.”

Head coach Jerritt Elliott has been impressed with the leadership displayed by the upperclassmen. He believes the trait is vital to the Longhorns making another deep postseason run.

“At the end of the day our leadership is going to have to get there [to the National Championship] and we are going to have to execute when it’s crunch time,” he said.

Printed on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 as: Seniors provide leadership on, off court for young Texas squad.

With 2010 firmly in the rearview, it may be too early for the Longhorns to shake off their crushing exit from the Final Four, but one thing is for certain — Texas has plenty to look forward to in 2011.

Jerritt Elliott’s young team battled adversity during its run to the Final Four, and his talented squad returns seven players who often started for the Longhorns in 2010. Elliott will rely on middle blocker Rachael Adams and outside hitter Amber Roberson as the two roommates will return to lead the Longhorn team this fall.

Both Roberson and Adams will assume the leadership position left by the departing senior class, but the two juniors carefully watched this season’s seniors and are confident they can pick up where veterans Juliann Faucette and Jen Doris left off.

“Looking at them, you have to learn how to take control of a team at a certain time when there’s young players and they’re going to be looking up to you,” Roberson said. “You have to be the one to step up to that and be the one they can count on rather than you counting on them.”

Setter Michelle Kocher and libero Sydney Yogi will also be seniors in 2011 and will inherit a rather young but experienced team — one Elliott believes will find it’s way back to the Final Four once again.

“We’re going to keep getting back here and we’re close to cracking this,” Elliott said.

The Longhorns have been bounced from the Final Four in each of the past three years, coming within a point of the National Championship in 2009. This year’s group was quite younger than the one that made the semifinals in years past, which is something that excites Elliott looking ahead to next season.

“These younger kids have got a lot more matches in them with this NCAA tournament,” Elliott said. “They learned a lot from adversity and going through that. It’s something.”

Texas was hampered by injuries much of the season, with Yogi, sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster and freshman outside hitter Ashley Bannister missing significant time. Their return will deepen an already loaded Longhorns’ bench, giving Elliott all the tools he needs to put together another run deep into the NCAA Tournament.

“Our program is very healthy, but again, that being said, we have new players and the culture will change dramatically each year doing that,” Elliott said. “We have to teach them, as a family, what it means to be a Texas Longhorn and represent this University, because there are standards and they all have to live by them in the same way.”

The incoming freshman class is one of the top-rated recruiting classes in the nation, and there has been a buzz brewing around the Longhorns for quite some time regarding their chances for a title in 2011. Look for Katherine Bell, Haley Eckerman and Madelyn Hutson — a trio of top-rated prospects — to contribute for the Longhorns from the get-go.

With a mix of talent young and old, a well-versed coaching staff and a recently impeccable track record, Texas could be the last team standing in 2011.

“They’re going to be very good next year, so I’m excited to watch them, and I’ll be one of those Longhorns texting Jerritt next year as they hopefully get back to the Final Four,” Faucette said. 

It’s a fascinating thing to hear the way a native Hawaiian pronounces the name of their home state: Hawai’i — the traditional spelling in the Hawaiian language — with an elegant pause before uttering the final syllable.

Hang around the Texas volleyball team for a few hours and you will be treated to a crash course in the state’s pronunciation from a pair of natives, freshman Sarah Palmer and junior Sydney Yogi.

The two defensive specialists from the island of Oahu share a special bond and take pride in their Hawaiian roots.

“They love volleyball there; everybody comes to watch,” Palmer said. “It prepared me well because Hawaii is known for their defense and that’s how I got recruited here. They pushed me and brought me up to where I am right now.”

Senior outside hitter and co-captain Juliann Faucette said she calls Palmer “Palmy,” a nickname inspired by the state’s scenic palm trees.

Palmer is enjoying her first year in Austin but admits it’s been a big adjustment from life on the islands.

“Everything up here is different — faster paced,” Palmer said. “The girls are taller, more competitive and it’s this new atmosphere that I love.”

Palmer’s teammates give her a hard time about some of her Hawaiian habits, especially her taste for a popular meal on the islands — Spam. Even so, the presence of co-captain Yogi on the team was a major factor in Palmer’s decision to play for Texas and a little slice of home she could recognize.

“It was great knowing that I would have that Hawaiian connection on the team,” Palmer said. “She reassured me that Texas volleyball was a great place to be and I’m glad I chose here.”

Yogi has taken the newcomer under her wing as the two not only played for the same club team back in Oahu, Asics Rainbows Volleyball Club, but also share the libero position.

“Every time I need help or want to ask questions I always know I can go to her,” Palmer said. “She helps me out and teaches me all the things she already knows. She’s great.”

Palmer’s role has expanded over Texas’ last three matches as Yogi has been fighting an injury. The freshman came off the bench in Texas’ upset of Iowa State last Wednesday and tallied a team-high 11 digs. She led the Longhorn defense in Saturday’s loss to Nebraska with a career-high 15 digs — Yogi did not play.

“It’s awesome to see her step up in that role,” Faucette said. “As a freshman it’s really intimidating, especially the libero position. That’s a huge position on the court and you have to be steady. You have to be aggressive and she’s really stepped up and its really a confidence builder for us just knowing that we can have those types of roles filled when we need them.”

Palmer’s big game against No. 3 Nebraska came as no surprise because she has faced tough competition before, training with the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team in 2009.

“U.S.A. training prepared me mentally to focus on bigger games and how to prepare myself to relax throughout the game and not overwhelm myself,” Palmer said. “I love playing in front of a big crowd and a big atmosphere. It makes you push harder every point to prove everyone wrong.”

Although her family back home in Oahu is nine hours away by plane, Palmer said they keep up with her by watching Texas’ live-streamed games and sending her text messages after every match.

It’s a fascinating thing to hear the way a native Hawaiian pronounces the name of their home state: Hawai’i — the traditional spelling in the Hawaiian language — with an elegant pause before uttering the final syllable.

Hang around the Texas volleyball team for a few hours and you will be treated to a crash course in the state’s pronunciation from a pair of natives, freshman Sarah Palmer and junior Sydney Yogi.

The two defensive specialists from the island of Oahu share a special bond and take pride in their Hawaiian roots.

“They love volleyball there; everybody comes to watch,” Palmer said. “It prepared me well because Hawaii is known for their defense and that’s how I got recruited here. They pushed me and brought me up to where I am right now.”

Senior outside hitter and co-captain Juliann Faucette said she calls Palmer “Palmy,” a nickname inspired by the state’s scenic palm trees.

Palmer is enjoying her first year in Austin but admits it’s been a big adjustment from life on the islands.

“Everything up here is different — faster paced,” Palmer said. “The girls are taller, more competitive and it’s this new atmosphere that I love.”

Palmer’s teammates give her a hard time about some of her Hawaiian habits, especially her taste for a popular meal on the islands — Spam. Even so, the presence of co-captain Yogi on the team was a major factor in Palmer’s decision to play for Texas and a little slice of home she could recognize.

“It was great knowing that I would have that Hawaiian connection on the team,” Palmer said. “She reassured me that Texas volleyball was a great place to be and I’m glad I chose here.”

Yogi has taken the newcomer under her wing as the two not only played for the same club team back in Oahu, Asics Rainbows Volleyball Club, but also share the libero position.

“Every time I need help or want to ask questions I always know I can go to her,” Palmer said. “She helps me out and teaches me all the things she already knows. She’s great.”

Palmer’s role has expanded over Texas’ last three matches as Yogi has been fighting an injury. The freshman came off the bench in Texas’ upset of Iowa State last Wednesday and tallied a team-high 11 digs. She led the Longhorn defense in Saturday’s loss to Nebraska with a career-high 15 digs — Yogi did not play.

“It’s awesome to see her step up in that role,” Faucette said. “As a freshman it’s really intimidating, especially the libero position. That’s a huge position on the court and you have to be steady. You have to be aggressive and she’s really stepped up and its really a confidence builder for us just knowing that we can have those types of roles filled when we need them.”

Palmer’s big game against No. 3 Nebraska came as no surprise because she has faced tough competition before, training with the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team in 2009.

“U.S.A. training prepared me mentally to focus on bigger games and how to prepare myself to relax throughout the game and not overwhelm myself,” Palmer said. “I love playing in front of a big crowd and a big atmosphere. It makes you push harder every point to prove everyone wrong.”

Although her family back home in Oahu is nine hours away by plane, Palmer said they keep up with her by watching Texas’ live-streamed games and sending her text messages after every match.