"Lo" Yeadon gave up her spot at outside hitter to her sister, taking on a no-glory defensive role and making Mercer Island even stronger.
MERCER ISLAND — This is the year Lorial Yeadon has waited for.
The year to share the volleyball court with younger sister Jemma.
The year to help vault Mercer Island High School to the top of the Class 3A state rankings.
The year, hopefully, to lead the Islanders to their first state volleyball championship.
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And so this is the year — her senior year — that Lorial Yeadon gladly gave up her role as an outside hitter to become the team’s libero, a position that demands gutsy dives and offers little glory.
It opened the door for Jemma, a freshman, to take Lorial’s starting position at the net. And it’s one reason top-ranked Mercer Island is off to a 13-0 start.
“It’s best for the team with me passing,” said Lorial, who goes by “Lo” and volunteered to make the move. “We get the best stats and we’re going to be more successful.”
Both sisters are thriving in their roles. Lo averages 11 digs per match and had a career-high 21 in last month’s 3-2 victory over Mount Si, which was ranked No. 1 at the time. Jemma is second on the team in kills, averaging nearly 10. Mercer Island coach Susan McKay calls her the most talented freshman she’s ever seen.
Mind you, Lo was no slouch as a hitter. She earned All-KingCo honors as a sophomore and junior. Lo stands just 5 feet 4 but plays like she’s a 6-footer, according to McKay. Jemma is closer to 5-8, and still growing.
Lo also was a starter as a freshman, when the family moved to Mercer Island from Arizona. She tore the ACL in her left knee the following club season and said she still doesn’t believe she’s regained her full form as a hitter. McKay disagrees.
“She was even a more powerful, more consistent hitter than she was the past two years,” the fourth-year coach said. “I was really surprised at how much she had improved. I saw her just killing the ball.”
Lo and Jemma first picked up the sport as grade-schoolers in Arizona, where they lived near a sand court. They quickly grew to love the game, although they didn’t particularly enjoy playing together. Or being together.
“We didn’t get along at all until we moved here,” Jemma said. “We literally hated each other.”
But when their mom’s career as a patent attorney brought them to Mercer Island, it brought them closer together.
“We didn’t have any friends here, so we decided we might as well be friends,” Lo said.
They have their own bedrooms, but most nights Lo bunks with Jemma. Like most sisters, they bicker occasionally — Jemma complains about Lo’s messiness and Lo laments about Jemma jacking everything in her closet — but they laugh while telling the stories.
Both are competitive and agree they help make each other better players. Jemma loves taking her best shot across the net at Lo, who picks up nearly every ball.
“I haven’t beaten her,” Jemma said. “Yet.”
The Islanders have their eyes on an unbeaten season. But they know they’ve still got a lot of work to do and aren’t looking past Thursday’s rematch with third-ranked Mount Si.
They are extra motivated by last year’s 0-2 finish at the state tournament, where they ran into top-ranked West Valley of Yakima in the opening round.
“There’s 10 seniors total and we all want it so bad,” Lo said. “It’s super exciting to share it with Jemma, too. We probably won’t ever play together again, so we need to make the most of it.”
Because this is the year she’s waited for.
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