Newcomer brings Olympic pedigree to Rock Bridge volleyball

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | 9:26 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Being the daughter of a coach can certainly come with expectations.

Being the daughter of a coach that is also a former Olympian is a whole other story.

Yonne Nasimiyu came to the United States from Kenya at age 9. Her mother, Rose Obunaga, participated on the Kenyan volleyball team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Obunaga is currently the volleyball coach at Stephens College.

“While I didn’t play volleyball very much in Kenya, my mom would always take me to the gym with her,” Nasimiyu said. “She was always playing volleyball. She played until she was eight months pregnant with me.”

Nasimiyu was all smiles as she described the stories her mother told her of the adventures she had at the Olympics.

“She would tell me stories about how her and her teammates went out every night and met new people from so many different countries,” Nasimiyu said. “She has so many pictures, and whenever I have friends over they want to see all of the pictures immediately.”

Nasimiyu has bounced around the Midwest over the past couple of years while her mother worked in different coaching positions in Indiana and St. Louis. Nasimiyu will play her senior year as an outside hitter for Rock Bridge.

“I actually lived here a couple of years, and I like the level of competition,” Nasimiyu said. “I’m excited to come back and play at Rock Bridge for my final season. This is a strong team, and we have a lot ahead of us.”

Nasimiyu joins a Rock Bridge team that won 27 games last year and was a win away from playing in the state tournament.

“Yonne is a really talented player,” Rock Bridge coach Robin Sherman said. “It’s nice to have a daughter of a coach on the team.”

Although playing for Rock Bridge is a high priority this year, Nasimiyu can’t help admitting that playing for her mother at Stephens College next year is a possibility.

“I certainly plan to play volleyball in college,” Nasimiyu said. “I’ll probably play at Stephens for my mom, but I haven’t made my decision yet. I want to study oncology and pediatrics, so that will play a role in where I decide to go.”

If Nasimiyu chooses to play for Stephens, it wouldn’t be the first time she played for her mother. Obunaga was Nasimiyu’s coach when she played club volleyball.

“It’s great having my mom as a coach,” Nasimiyu said. “She explains everything you need to know and helps you fix what you are doing wrong.”

Hannah Krogman, another new player on the Bruins' team, said it’s obvious Nasimiyu has inherited some of her mother's talent and skill.

“Yonne is a very strong and talented player,” Krogman said. “I have never seen someone who can jump as high as she can. I’m three inches taller than her, and she can still get higher than I can.”

While Nasimiyu’s skill is evident, Krogman is quick to praise Nasimiyu as a teammate as well.

“She is a great teammate,” Krogman said. "She is great at helping everyone else out.”

Nasimiyu also has plans to run track at Rock Bridge. She has run the 100- and 200-meter dash at her previous schools.

“My former coaches thought that since I am Kenyan, I will be a great cross country runner,” Nasimiyu said before bursting out laughing. “There are different tribes in Kenya, and my tribe is not known for long distance. It’s physically impossible for me to run that long and be OK.”

While this is Nasimiyu’s first and final season with the Bruins, she plans on making an immediate impact.

“This team has very high hopes for this season,” Nasimiyu said. “As we come together, we are becoming a better and better team. I definitely think we can make it to state.”

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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