When ESPN televised the Division I women's volleyball championships about a week ago, Aidan Yeager couldn't make it through the entire match.
"I watched half of it. I had to change the channel," she said. "It made me want to play too much."
The match signified the end of the collegiate volleyball season, which for Yeager meant the end of a four-year career at Division I Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
Looking back at the start of that career, Yeager said that her first days with the Dolphins were an eye-opener after she graduated from Evans High School in 2007.
"I realized I didn't know much about volleyball at all," she said. "... It's so much more intricate than I would've thought. There's so much planning and different plays. Everything is planned.
"Watching it, you don't get that whole feel."
Coming out of high school, Yeager was one of the most celebrated volleyball players to come out of Columbia County. She was chosen at The Augusta Chronicle 2006 All-Area Player of the Year her senior season.
While at Evans, she played club ball with the CSRA Heat and coach Rich Bland.
"Aidan had a unique combination of height, length, being left-handed," Bland said of the 6-foot-3 Yeager. "I thought one of her best qualities as a volleyball player was that she was a very natural and intuitive blocker."
Having a lefty hitter on the squad is beneficial for two reasons.
One, it gives opposing blockers a change of pace because they're used to setting up for right-handers. In addition, placing a left-hander at the right-side hitting position gives that player the ability to see the entire court. In contrast, a right-hander naturally faces right, or away from the court on the right side.
Yeager's unique set of skills set her apart at Jacksonville, so much so that she started as a freshman. After a successful season, she earned a spot on the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team.
At the college level, Yeager found herself training more than she ever thought she would. With so much wear and tear, she began to develop knee problems late in her freshman season.
"We sort of monitored it, sitting out practices," Yeager said.
She continued to play through it during both her sophomore and junior seasons. By the end of her junior season, the injury got to the point where she had to have the tendons in her knees repaired.
Healthy again for her senior season, Yeager produced strong results.
The team was young and struggled at times to secure the same sort of chemistry the Dolphins had during Yeager's first three seasons, when they produced a combined record of 59-29.
However, as a right-side hitter and blocker, she earned All-Atlantic Sun Conference first-team honors as a senior.
Yeager stamped her name in the Jacksonville volleyball record book.
In terms of career ranks, she is second in block assists with 324, third in total blocks with 333, and fifth in kills with 1,034.
Though some might wonder what the numbers could have been had she stayed injury-free, Yeager said she has tried to keep a proper perspective.
When an assistant coach asked her what she would change about her career, Yeager instantly said that she would not have missed any games.
"He explained that obviously everyone would wish that," she said. "But I didn't want to change anything I had control of, which means I had the best career I could have.
"I definitely worked hard, and I'm really proud of it."
As a marketing major, Yeager earned the Atlantic Sun's Academic All-Conference honors each of her four years. She's set to graduate in the spring.
As for her future, Yeager is considering playing professionally in Europe. If she decides to pursue it, her coach believes she has the right mind-set to succeed.
"She was a very focused player," Jacksonville coach Shaun Kupferberg said. "She always was focused on what she needed to do to get better.
"We're going to miss her, obviously, on the court, just physically," he added. "But we'll miss her work ethic on the court as well."
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