Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hard Hitting Yulia Vtyurina Leads Hoyas to Victory

Hard Hitting Yulia Vtyurina Leads Hoyas to Victory

By Josh Hsu Hoya Staff Writer

Volleyball is a game of momentum. It is a game built around confidence, a very fragile confidence.

For the Georgetown Hoyas, no one is better at shattering the confidence of the other team than 6-foot-2 outside hitter, Yulia Vtyurina. When the opposition prepares to face her, they come to realize that the scariest part of the game takes place about 20 minutes into warm-ups. During this time, the Hoyas begin their hitting drills. As Vtyurina hits, jaws drop, goose-bumps form, and the tiny little hairs on the back of the neck stand on end.

A returning sophomore, Vtyurina is one of the youngest players on the team. She has just turned 18 years old, which can help explain her exuberance for the game: as she can always be seen dancing to the music played during breaks. However, no one should mistake her youth for inexperience.

“I have been playing since I was nine, and I started playing club when I was 11,” she said. For Vtyurina, volleyball is second nature.

As Vtyurina pounds ball after ball seemingly into the ground, the thump that it produces becomes ingrained into the opposition’s minds. Their excitement, which couldn’t be contained five minutes earlier, has dwindled to gulps of fear. They finally begin to understand how the term “kill” came about. It is this intimidation provided by Vtyurina, that couldn’t be replaced when she was out this season with a sprained ankle. It is the exact same intangibles that helped the Hoyas win a share of the Big East last year, and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Georgetown history.

The team, which suffered losses to San Diego and Rutgers during her absence, has been undefeated since her return. She was a dominating force against Boston College, posting a match-high 17 kills. Furthermore, the Hoyas won against American University in five games after a heart pounding fifth-game comeback. The Hoyas were down 10-4 in the rally score game. Her return has been welcomed by her teammates with open arms, as the Hoyas go down the stretch of their Big East season.

Vtyurina was born in Moscow, and moved to the United States when she was a year old. Her father was a Russian diplomat, and so she often traveled with him. As the saying goes, “daddy knows best.” He always knew that she would be good at volleyball, so he made sure that she played. Just for some variety, she did a little soccer and swimming on the side.

It is the opposing team’s players turn to do hitting drills, but what are they to do? Try ing to intimidate the Georgetown women after what they have seen in practice is like trying to scare Major League hitters with a wiffle ball. It just isn’t happening. The other team continues with their hitting drills, just hoping that they don’t hit too many balls into the net.

Vtyurina has already seen success at its highest level, so she is not fazed by it. Her sister, Svetlana, was an All-American at George Washington University. She holds the NCAA record for kills in a career (3,043) and in a single match (56). So, as one might expect, comparisons between them are always lingering. Georgetown Head Coach Li Liu said she does not believe that this is fair, since Julia is in her own right “a very good player.”

Keep in mind that this is not like Tito trying to follow up ichael’s solo career. Vtyurina has been nothing short of spectacular since she arrived on the Hilltop last year. She was the 1998 Big East Rookie of the Year, and was also chosen as this year’s Pre-season Big East Player of the Year.

Despite her accolades, Vtyurina remains humble about the game. She admits that she needs to work on serving and receiving, while Liu wants her to improve her blocking.

“I think she can make a big impact in blocking. She is so tall and has such long arms that she doesn’t need to jump,” Liu said. If Vtyurina’s passion ever passes over to the defensive side of the ball, this portrait of her as a hitter may just have to be revised.

Hitting drills are over and the Hoyas are eager for the game to start. The other team just wants warm-ups to end, so that they can cling on to whatever confidence they have left. With the music blaring, and Vtyurina dancing, the serving drills are about to begin.

In spite of her tremendous offensive game, Vtyurina was never looked at by the school she always thought she would attend.

“I was planning on going to GW, but they never recruited me,” she said. It is safe to say now, perhaps, that George Washington made a mistake. When it came down to deciding on a college, Vtyurina was to decide between the University of Maryland and Georgetown. Georgetown won out, largely based on its academic reputation.

Last year was not only a coming-out party for the tall Russian, but for her teammates as well. As a result, the emergence of Vtyurina and Georgetown volleyball has also brought people to the games. The once empty McDonough Gym now has its fair share of fans, some of whom scream and bang on the bleachers for the home team.

Furthermore, Georgetown’s women’s volleyball has a new face, thanks to Vtyurina and some other factors. Liu has done a tremendous job since Jolene Nagel’s move to Duke. Sophomore transfer Amy Schweitzer is leading the team with her picture perfect sets, something that Vtyurina surely appreciates.

“Amy is an awesome setter,” Vtyurina said.

“I like hitting, a lot,” Vtyurina added. Those words can be extremely frightening to the opposition.

As the warm-ups finally come to a close, the ref signals for the game to start. Unfortunately, volleyball is a game of fragile confidence, a confidence that Vtyurina has already smacked out of the other team.

 

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