10 things: Serra outside hitter Sydney Uko

Sydney Uko’s high school volleyball career can be summed up in one word: growth. As she puts it, she’s come a long way. Once upon a time, she was the freshman with the "really big vertical" who didn’t know how to connect with the ball. Instead of slamming a huge spike, she just "set the ball over."

"I would jump as if I was about to hit it but since I didn’t know how to it and my timing was weird, I would just set it over," said Uko, owner of a 32-inch vertical. "If you’ve seen how far I’ve come."

These days, Uko is a 5-5 outside hitter and defensive specialist for Serra High School. Hitting the ball is no longer an issue. She leads the Cavaliers in kills. In a game last week, she had 28. After this season, the senior aspires to continue her career at the collegiate level and hopes to play professionally one day.

For more about Uko, here are the 10 things you should know:

Nickname

Squirrel.

It’s a name that comes from Uko’s teammates, she says, because of her familiarity to the animal.

Favorite sport

Although Uko never ran, she considered track her favorite sport when she was younger. She grew up in a track family. Her mother, Paulette Blalock, ran professionally and sister, Cindy Robinson, ran in college, but Uko was bitten by the volleyball bug as an eighth grader.

Hobbies

Uko admits her free time is mostly spent training but if she’s not training she enjoys watching videos of professional volleyball players. Her favorite is U.S. National Team opposite Destinee Hooker.

"(She’s) a really good one," Uko said. 

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Late night snack

If it’s late and Uko is looking for something to snack on, she’s headed to the freezer for some frozen fruit pops or fruit sorbets.

"I love those," she said.

Favorite team

U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team.

iPod

Rap and pop are the popular music genres for Uko.

"Anything that gets me going, anything that gets me upbeat because if  you don’t play for the love of the game and you don’t play with happiness I feel like I’m lost on the court," Uko said.

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Who would play you in the movie?

Uko is the consummate team player and that trait would even carry over to the big screen.

"Whoever the director felt should play me I would just go with it," she said. "(It’s like) whatever the coaches tell me to do I just do."

Best sports memory

For that, Uko would say the first time she connected with the ball at the right time on the volleyball court. It was at the end of her freshman season, Uko was hanging around a varsity practice doing some hitting against the wall. She hopped in a drill and it all came together.

"Doing the drill I was realizing that hitting was really all about timing and it wasn’t so much about ‘Oh, just hit the ball, just hit the ball, just hit the ball,’" he recalled.  

No. 21/19

"I always said I wanted to do 21 for high school and college and then when I went pro I wanted to do 19 like Destinee Hooker," she said.

Favorite meal

Uko loves her grandmother’s neck bones and rice. 

"She came from the south, so .." Uko said.