Winthrop Athletics recently recognized two volleyball players who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Siani Yamaguchi has been recognized as Big South Player of the Week and Carlie Skelton had been named Defender of the Week.
Yamaguchi, a junior exercise science major, is elated to have been acknowledged. Over the weekend, the Eagles went 2-0 with wins over USC Upstate and UNC Asheville. Against USCU, Yamaguchi, a junior setter, had 66 assists, 20 digs, three aces, three kills, and one block assist. Against UNCA, Yamaguchi posted another double-double with 41 assists and 12 digs. She had three kills and three aces in that match as well. She finished with a conference high of 13.37 assists per set and 4 digs per set.
“It felt amazing to be recognized,” said Yamaguchi. “I’ve got to give the glory to the man above and my teammates for that. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today.” Her achievement accurately reflects her background, as she’s known the game for quite some time.
“I have always been around it because I come from a volleyball family, but I started playing in the sixth grade,” she responded. “Since then, being determined, self-motivated, doing things that other athletes won’t, making sacrifices, being disciplined and, most importantly, being coachable are characteristics that I’ve acquired to become the athlete that I am now.
Over the years of playing volleyball, I’ve gone through a number of coaches; everyone is different and have a different way of teaching players. Being open minded helped me expand my volleyball IQ.” Not only has this achievement pushed her to work harder on the court, but Yamaguchi has also been motivated to power forward in the classroom.
“I was always an average student in the classroom, but my goal this year was to really focus on my studies; I want to do better in the classroom and work just as hard as I work on the court. I think this achievement can make me a better student by keeping my grades up to be able to play, honestly. It would be a big letdown to my teammates if I didn’t have the grades to play, so that’s another thing that motivates me to be better in the classroom.”
Skelton, a senior exercise science major, is proud to have received her second Defender of the Week recognition. She posted 13 digs over USC Upstate and 30 digs over UNCA, just one shy of her career record. She passed a 2.2 against UNCA and finished with 5.37 digs per set. “It’s exciting” Skelton said. “I’m very honored and thankful to have received this award. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. We’ve all been working really hard this year and we are lucky to have such a supportive coaching staff that has helped us in so many ways, such as improving our defense and communication between each other which has paid off this season. Our block setup was really good which forced the opponents to have to hit the balls in my direction and allowed me to get as many digs as I did. So I have my block to thank for that.” Skelton is no stranger to volleyball, as she is thankful for her improvement over the past nine years and counting.
“I actually learned to play volleyball from YouTube videos, so I [would] say I’ve come a long way,” Skelton said. “I started playing JV for Florence Christian in the seventh grade, moved to varsity in the ninth grade and played all the way until my senior year. I was always doing something with a volleyball and would often practice passing against one of the brick walls I had at my house. I started playing club for Florence Juniors in eighth grade, then from ninth through 12th grade I played club at GSJ where I met some really influential and motivating coaches that helped me get to Winthrop.” This achievement already has Skelton preparing for the future; she is already making a game plan to continue to keep up the good work.
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