The Truman State University volleyball team has seen many exceptional student athletes and leaders come through the program in recent years, and this season was no exception.
The Bulldogs were led by a trio of seniors, whose Head Coach Ben Briney was quick to praise for their leadership that helped bring the Bulldogs to a Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament berth.
Left side hitter Sam Yancy is one of those seniors. Both Briney and Yancy said the success they have found this season has been because of their focus on technique.
Yancy elaborated by saying Briney always tells his players that volleyball is really a simple game if you stay disciplined to the fundamentals and force the opponent to make plays.
After the two late-season victories, Yancy finished the regular season second on the team in kills with 163 and first with 2.8 points per set.
However, Briney said Yancy brings a lot more than kills and points to the team.
“Sam brings a lot of passion to the court,” Briney said. “She’s someone that comes in every day in practice and is going to give you 100% … she brings that fire and passion that motivates everybody on the court.”
Briney added Yancy is willing to put in the work and make the sacrifices needed to make both herself and her teammates the best they can be.
Yancy said the passion she has for the sport stems from her family as her mother played volleyball in her college career as well.
Yancy said her mother is from Brazil which is surrounded by volleyball and soccer, and her mother’s passion for the game spilled over into her.
Yancy said she started playing in the fifth grade and much of her life has somehow been connected to the sport.
“Some of the greatest friendships I’ve made over the course of my life are attributed to volleyball,” Yancy said. “It’s been the method that I use to cope with a lot of stress and other things going on.”
Yancy explained that getting to be on the court is her chance to get away from everything else in the world and gives her some sense of peace.
In terms of the season, Yancy said the biggest difference was the move to the spring. However, she said the opportunity to play in her final season has changed her outlook on the sport.
“Over the last year, I’ve learned to cherish every moment that I’ve gotten to play volleyball,” Yancy said. “There’s just a whole new appreciation I have for the sport.”
Yancy said she originally thought she wouldn’t get to play after hearing there wasn’t a fall season. However, learning of the spring season made Yancy appreciate the opportunity to play even more.
“I let [Yancy and Berthold] do a lot of the talking,” Kaat said. “My strongest trait as a leader is going out on the court and working hard and doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Kaat is going to be returning next fall after the National Collegiate Athletic Association granted their student athletes an extra year of eligibility and hopes to take on the more vocal role with the departure of Yancy and Berthold.
Yancy said even if there aren’t any fans in the stands, it still gets loud in the gym, and she takes pride in having that voice that can cut through the noise and communicate when her teammates need it most.
Kaat said a big motivating factor for herself and her teammates is simply the idea of having a chance at a conference ring. While there isn’t an NCAA Division II tournament, Kaat said the conference tournament has certainly given the team something to compete for.
However, it hasn’t been all about volleyball for Yancy. As for most Truman students, academics demand a lot of attention.
Yancy said she has always been told to take academics seriously whether it be from her mother or Briney.
“My mom was an immigrant and came in not knowing any English,” Yancy said. “So she always told me to hold academics to the highest pedestal.”
Yancy said Briney also tells his players that they are here for school and that he is constantly checking in with them and their professors in regards to their academics.
This mentality and upbringing have allowed Yancy to be named multiple times to the Academic All-GLVC team in 2017 and 2018.
The bonus, Yancy said, of being a student athlete is that it has forced her to be organized in everything she does.
Yancy continued by saying that each week she goes down the list of everything that needs to be done and “keeps her ducks in a row.”
In reflecting on her time as a Bulldog, Yancy found it difficult to name the select few who have helped turn her into the person she is today. Yancy said nearly everybody she has come into contact with within the volleyball program has affected her in a positive way.
Whether it was Kaat, who is also her roommate, helping guide her in her faith, or fellow outside hitter Morgan Smith who has motivated her to be the best player she can be.
This past weekend featured Yancy’s, as well as Berthold’s, final two regular-season home games. These two games were also going to decide the fate of the Bulldogs season.
Yancy said this past weekend was about whether or not they were going to be heading back to practice or not on the following Monday.
Going into the weekend, Yancy said Briney came to the team and told them they were playing for Yancy and Berthold.
“I think everyone took that to heart and left their entire being out on the court and all that they had,” Yancy said. “It really showed how amazing we could play together as a team.”
Yancy said the wins showed the potential that she and her teammates have going into the conference tournament.
Briney said it has been a full team effort this season, but it has been a blessing to have three seniors who have helped guide the Bulldogs.
Yancy and the Bulldogs are set to take on the No. 1 ranked Lewis University in the first round of the conference tournament April 16.