Anybody from a rural area can relate to the overwhelming feeling that comes with moving to a big city like Austin. However, very few can relate to moving from a small town in Iowa to playing for the highly ranked Texas volleyball team. Freshman Sydney Petersen is one of the few who can relate.
Originally from Dike, Iowa (Population: 1,200), Petersen is now a member of one of the most talented freshmen squads in the nation. While she’s the shortest member of the team, she makes an impact as the starting libero.
“Sydney’s a libero, so she’s come in and become the glue of the back court,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “She’s done a really nice job. She’s been very good from the service line, very good at the serve receive and defensively she makes good touches over and over again.”
From the very beginning, Petersen always knew she wanted to play volleyball. While she did not who she would play for in college growing up, she is more than happy to be a part of the Texas program.
“It’s been really fun and really cool,” Petersen said. “Honestly, I’ve dreamt of these moments when I was younger. As a kid, I always knew I wanted to play volleyball.”
Off the court, the transition from a high school standout to life as a college athlete has been understandably challenging. With the team travelling as much as it has already this season as a result of having seven out of the first 11 matches taking place away from Austin, juggling volleyball with school work has been hard to balance.
“It’s a lot different from high school,” Petersen said. “I’ve been missing a lot of a math course so it’s really hard to keep up. I just have to reteach myself everything. That adjustment has been really hard, but I’m figuring it out.”
Petersen joined a Texas team that has been wildly successful over the past decade, making the Final Four five times over the past six years. In order to get back to that standard, both the freshmen and veterans on the team will need to work together.
“I can only speak for myself, but being a freshman on this team has been amazing,” Petersen said. “We have such good leaders this year that have really taken us under their wing. We were all scared at first like we didn’t know what we were doing but they really helped us out.”
Among a group of incredibly talented freshmen, Petersen has carved out her role, improving every game. If Texas wants to continue to contend for an 11th-consecutive Big 12 title, the Longhorns must be able to rely on Petersen.
“She’s such a great leader on the court and obviously the way she plays is the same,” fellow freshman Logan Eggleston said. “Every ball is up, every pass is perfect. She’s just done such a good job coming in and become an instant leader for us.”
Petersen chose Texas for several reasons, but the pedigree of the program proved to be the largest factor. Consistently competing for titles has allowed Texas to persuade some of the best young talent in the country to come to Austin. The continued development of young players like Petersen will be one of the primary keys for the Longhorns to continue having success.
“I thought I would have the best chance here to win a national championship,” Petersen said. “Just being here in the atmosphere that UT brings is just really amazing.”
Petersen’s journey and pursuit for a national title continues when Texas prepares to host the team from her home state in the Iowa State Cyclones. First serve is set for 6 p.m. at Gregory Gym.