From The Daily: She Can Dig It

Nov. 12, 2009

By Taylor Soper
The Daily

Great athletes separate themselves from the norm simply by doing things in a different way. Washington senior libero Tamari Miyashiro is no exception.

Different would probably be the best way to describe Miyashiro, who is widely thought of as the best libero in the country. Different because of a number of things: her position, her work ethic and her aura.

The libero position is one of the most interesting aspects of volleyball. When asked what she thinks about her position, Miyashiro took some time to think about it before giving an in-depth answer.

'You have to be the best digger; you have to have really good eye work; you control the serve receive, and the libero is the best passer on the court,' Miyashiro said. 'That's my vision of a libero, and that's what I'm striving to be.'

So far, the native of Kaneohe, Hawaii, has done quite the job as the UW libero. As a junior, she was named National Defensive Player of the Year by Under Armour/Volleyball Magazine. She is currently second in Pac-10 history in digs and is only 121 digs away from cementing her name at the top of the Pac-10 record books.

Miyashiro says that she enjoys racking up digs on the court, and breaking the Pac-10 record is one of her big goals.

'I just want to say that I want to be the best, and being the Pac-10 dig leader means the best,' she said.

Miyashiro is aware of her goals, and a national championship is at the top of her list. She was a part of the 2005 National Championship team as a redshirt, but never got to see any court action.

'I want to live it,' Miyashiro said of a national championship. 'I want to be making those decisions. There's something about being tested at those kinds of stakes, and I want to be tested in that environment.'

She's different, also, because of her work ethic, something that players and coaches alike take note of. Head coach Jim McLaughlin had high praise for his fifth-year senior.

'She's willing to work hard, and she sees the game well,' he said. 'She's always working to get better. That's her mindset: knowing `I need to get better.' That is the most important thing you need to have.'

McLaughlin, now in his ninth year as head coach, has seen his share of elite college volleyball players. He coached former Husky libero Candace Lee, who held the all-time Washington digs lead before Miyashiro broke it this season.

But Miyashiro has set herself apart.

'Over the course of five years, she's the best all-around player I've ever coached,' McLaughlin said. 'She has an unbelievable feel for the game. She moves right; she sees right, and that, along with her [tenacity] and drive make her the best libero in the country and one of the best volleyball players in the country.'

She's different because of her path to the UW. Growing up in Hawaii, Miyashiro was surrounded by volleyball. Her mother and sister both played volleyball for the University of Hawaii, while her brother played at Graceland University in Iowa. She began to play team volleyball when she was 9, and as she approached high school, Miyashiro became hooked on the sport.

'It was easy for me to understand,' she said. 'A lot of the stuff wasn't as hard as the other sports. It was kind of natural, I guess.'

But it wasn't an easy road to the top for Miyashiro, who was the first of five siblings to be rejected by the competitive local private high school. Miyashiro went on to play for a public school where her father was the athletic director and her older sister was the volleyball coach. Having her father and sister around ended up helping Miyashiro greatly, and the senior almost feels that not being admitted into the private school worked out better for her.

'I had a lot of friends that went to the public school, so it was no big deal,' she said. 'I kind of took it as a challenge. My parents didn't make a big deal out of it because ultimately, you don't really control that. They knew no matter where I went I'd be fine. I had a great time, and for me, it was the right fit.'

The challenges didn't stop there, as Miyashiro had trouble gaining attention from big-time schools because of her location and lack of exposure. After she sent out videos to all the Pac-10 schools, the UW was the only one that showed interest. Miyashiro walked on her freshman year and redshirted. She's come a long way since the very first time she set foot on campus.

'I've grown up really fast,' she said. 'That's also what I wanted. I knew I needed to do it.'

Teammates have grown to adore the senior, who doesn't need to raise her voice to lead, but rather let her game, personality and work ethic speak for itself.

'She's probably one of the nicest people I've ever met in my whole life,' sophomore Lauren Barfield said. 'She takes us out to lunch; she drives us places. Also, she's not just a leader to be in charge; she's a leader to help other people, too.'

When asked to describe his senior in one word, McLaughlin had some trouble.

'One word doesn't do her justice,' he explained. 'But know this: She's a great player, and she's twice the person she is the player. She's a wonderful person, and being around her is a neat thing. Every day, it's fun coming to work with her.'

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