Sep 30, 2012
By Akeem Glaspie
CARBONDALE, IL - After beating Creighton and Drake this weekend, the Saluki volleyball team is off to a 13-3 start, and that's incredibly gratifying for seniors Rachael Brown and Bailey Yeager, who are lifelong friends and volleyball teammates.
Brown and Yeager began playing softball together when they were little kids growing up in Brownsburg, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis. Later, AAU volleyball became a central part of their lives, as they played together on the Circle City and Team Indiana volleyball club teams.
Bailey's father, Bob, coached the duo at Brownsburg High School, where they posted a 108-21 overall record in four seasons with both players making multiple All-Conference teams.
"I don't think we ever had an unsuccessful volleyball team, whether it be club, junior high or high school," said Brown. "So that was what we came to expect from one another."
Volleyball in suburban Indiana is very competitive, Brown said, and many of the area's best players go on to play at the collegiate level. At the age of 14, she began putting together recruiting film for potential colleges and committed to play at SIU during her junior year of high school. Yeager, committed to SIU during her senior year, in no small part so that she could play alongside Brown. Over the years they have become like an extended family.
"Our parents can ride to the matches together, and it makes it easier having someone that knows you (on the team)," Yeager said.
Added Brown, "every home game we have at least one parent or somebody coming to our matches, so both of us have very strong family structures. Which helped us get to the point we are today."
The roommates' chemistry has translated onto the court, where the Salukis are one of the surprise teams in the MVC. Brown, who is a setter, is second on the team in assists with 99, behind leader Amy Drabant. Yeager, who is a defensive specialist, leads the team 305 digs and now ranks fifth all-time in SIU history with 1,099 digs. The pair said after playing together for so many years, they can communicate non-verbally while on the court together.
"We've been doing it for so long that it's become natural," Brown said.
"When you've been playing together for nearly 10 years, you learn each other's strengths and weaknesses," Yeager added.
Besides the individual and team success the pair said what will stand out the most to them is how the SIU community has made them feel like members of the Saluki family.
"I think we've had such a great experience in Carbondale overall, from the strong sense of community," said Brown. "We go back to Brownsburg or the Indianapolis area, and if we're wearing a SIU shirt somebody will say, "oh, you're a Saluki!" There's Salukis everywhere, so that's kind of nice."
The Saluki volleyball team will look to extend its win streak to three games when it travels to Murray State on Tuesday.