By Kurana Doobay
When asked to describe an outstanding athlete, Coach Danielle MacKnight of the Adelphi women’s volleyball team said the title, “absolutely describes her.” MacKnight followed with, “She is the type of player and person that every coach would want on their team. She works hard, on and off the court, she is respectful, and she is very good at volleyball.”
Yonker, an exercise science graduate student, is one of three graduate students on Adelphi’s women’s volleyball team. She transferred to Adelphi from New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in the spring of her sophomore year.
She plays libero – the player who wears a different colored jersey from the rest of the team. As the libero, she serves as the main defensive player on the team.
Not only does she rock the unique jersey, Yonker rocks the court in her own unique way.
In her athletic career, she said, “My biggest achievement is winning libero of the year three times. I won it at NYIT in the East Coast Conference in 2018, and I’ve won it two years in a row at Adelphi for the Northeast-10 Conference.”
This season, Yonker is determined to accomplish even more. She said, “The biggest goal I have this season is winning the NE10 championship.”
Yonker credits much of her success to her family, who were the first people to introduce her to volleyball. “I started playing because my parents played adult league at Sportime, which is where I played club volleyball.” Now, along with playing on Adelphi’s team, she also serves as an assistant volleyball coach at Sportime.
She said, “My family inspires me the most because they are the hardest working and most humble people I have ever met in my life.” Not only is she inspired by her family, but she takes great pride in the relationship she shares with them. “They have pushed me to be the person I am today. I know I have an amazing support system for the rest of my life.”
On the team, the coaches and players recognize and commend the way Yonker maintains a positive attitude as a team member and keeps the other girls motivated – and it does not go unappreciated. “Jamie is a very outgoing person,” Macknight said. “She likes to have fun but is still very competitive on the volleyball court. She brings competitiveness out in the players because they want to beat her. At the same time, she is everyone’s friend and biggest supporter.”
On a day she is struggling or having a hard time on the court, Yonker said, “Those days are most important to push through because you can’t beat the feeling of accomplishment afterward. My teammates motivate me with their passion to win and work hard.” Even on her hardest days, she still focuses on those around her and remains a team player.
MacKnight went on to explain what she notices when Yonker faces a challenge on the volleyball court. “She wants to have the ball come to her again so she can get the next one.” When Yonker herself notices she is facing an obstacle, she describes her own way of overcoming it. She tells herself and her teammates, “You have to try and give your full effort into everything you do, even if it’s challenging. It is all you can do sometimes.”
MacKnight said, “She is really such an extraordinary person and player. We were so lucky to have her be a part of our program for the last few years.” All she wishes for Yonker is that “she had more eligibility left.”
Due to her incredible sources of motivation as well as her own internal drive, Yonker said, “I have never felt like I wanted to quit or stop playing volleyball.”
Her advice to others? “Putting everything into perspective is really important in life. Some of the worst days of the week aren’t the days you’ll remember. Put your best foot forward every day and be present.”
At Adelphi’s next home volleyball game, keep an eye on the back row – it won’t be hard to spot Yonker in the white jersey. Watch her show off her skills and remember the drive that pushes her to perform the way she does. She does not only stand out on the court because she wears a different color but because she wears a different kind of attitude along with it.