Yumi Garcia preparing to make a stand on defense. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

From Brazil, to Bethel University and finally the 49ers Volleyball team, Yumi Garcia has had a major impact on those around her on and off the court. Coming from a different country has not stopped Garcia one bit.

“Yumi moved away from home to play volleyball when she was 16 and that helped show just how mature she is,” Head Coach Karen Weatherington said.

Her journey that has now led to Charlotte has been an eventful one, and it all started not too long ago.

“I decided to play volleyball when I was 10 years old. I started out as a setter and switched to the libero position when I was 15. Playing in Brazil is not too different than playing here other than the fact that the people here are much taller. I enjoy playing in Brazil and here equally,” Garcia said.

Garcia has been playing her current position for only five years. Most people do not start playing a position in a sport so late and end up having success, but she is clearly not like most people in that regard. Her talent and passion for the game got her involved with the Brazilian national team after being named the best Parana’s High School best Libero for U-16 in 2012 and for U-18 in 2014. Garcia’s collegiate volleyball career began with Bethel University in Tennessee during the 2016-2017 season. After putting up team best number’s for digs with 554, she knew she wanted to play in higher competition than the NAIA.

“One of my best player’s during my coaching days in the MEAC was from Brazil and hinted me towards Yumi and told me she felt that she was playing at a school [Bethel] that was a little under the level in which she wanted to compete,” Weatherington said.

These words from Coach Weatherington explain the early recruiting process of Garcia to Charlotte. Weatherington continued to tell the story of how a recruiting email she received from her featured a video of her playing with men from the Brazilian national team.

“I saw her getting digs on one of the guys who was probably one of their better players and she walked around the court like it was no big deal,” Weatherington said.

Garcia’s humble attitude towards the game may lead some to view her as quiet, but all she is doing is letting her game speak for itself.

“I feel like the level of play here at Charlotte is so high that I really improved my skills. I didn’t necessarily learn any new skills but I have just really been improving what I have already been doing,” Garcia said.

When she first visited Charlotte, she instantly felt that this was the right place to continue her playing career. In her first year with the 49ers volleyball team, Garcia is showing that her game has adjusted quite nicely to the NCAA level. That one visit was all it took for her to realize that she would fit right in with the program and be able to contribute immediately.

“I knew I wanted to play in a Division 1 school but when I got here, I got to meet all of the girls and play with them and meet all the coaches and I was like, this is my place,” Garcia said.

Early in the season, each player wrote a personal goal for this year. Garcia set the bar high for herself, to break the 49ers record for digs in a single season. Back when she wrote it, it was just simply a goal written on paper. Now, that goal is within reach, and it is very possible that Yumi will accomplish this feat.

“When I first decided I wanted to break the record, I thought it would be really cool. Right now I am really excited because I am really close,” Garcia said.

With four games left to play in the regular season, Yumi is just 35 digs off of setting the new program record that has stood for nine seasons. Her playing career so far with the 49ers has been outstanding, but Weatherington is even more impressed with her impact off of the court.

“She’s a special special person… she is a very selfless and giving player. She makes everyone laugh and she’s a kid walking into a situation sight unseen when she first came to Charlotte. She’s that unique player that goes to ask for help and will constantly give help. Yumi would rather show with actions than words that she is gonna come through for you and puts a lot of extra effort into everything she does,” Weatherington said.

High praise for Garcia’s impact on the team so far this season is well deserved. In a matter of a year, the 49ers volleyball team has gone from having a losing 7-23 season last year to competing for a spot in the Conference USA tournament. Garcia’s effect on the team this season can not only be seen in her performance, but the way she makes her teammates feel around her. The team is always laughing and smiling in her presence which goes to show that her heart is one of the most important features to the team.

49ers Volleyball has their final home game of the season on Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. If it has not happened already on the team’s upcoming three game road trip, expect Garcia to shatter the team’s digs record in the final regular season game against the Florida Atlantic Owls.