Sports Person of the Week
Yazmer Contributing All Around the Court
Junior Payton Yazmer is making contributions at multiple spots for the H-K girls’ volleyball team in the 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Steady Photography)
The Haddam-Killingworth girls’ volleyball team is off to one of its most successful starts in recent history this year. The Cougars have 13 victories on the season, and one of their strongest contributors along the way has been junior Payton Yazmer.
Payton plays just about every position on the court with H-K. Payton wants to do everything that she can to contribute to the greater good for Head Coach Robin Callender’s squad.
“My priority is to support the team. My favorite position is outside hitter, but I play wherever coach needs me to play,” says Payton. “This past game against East Hampton, coach asked me to play middle hitter all the way around. It was the first time playing this position and I was nervous, but coach’s faith in me that I could do it, along with the tremendous support from my teammates, I had to believe in myself.”
H-K won its first 12 matches of the 2021 campaign and is currently sporting a record of 13-1 on the year. Payton has 34 kills, 19 assists, and 14 aces to her credit this season.
Payton likes that volleyball allows her to play on a team competitively, while also allowing her to have fun. She embraces all aspects of the sport.
“I like that volleyball, like most sports, is both physical and mental. Properly getting the ball over the net is not as easy as it looks,” Payton says. “There is the technical aspect of one’s form, but at the same time, you have to be strategic in where you want the ball to land. Coach really fosters team bonding and encouragement. It is easier to try a new form or position when you know your team has your back.”
Payton got into the sport of volleyball when she was in the 7th grade. Coach Callender and the H-K volleyball program ran a spring clinic at H-K Middle School, sparking Payton’s interest in the game.
“I was first introduced to volleyball in middle school. I knew after playing one week with coach that my goal was to play for H-K,” says Payton. “My only priority entering high school was trying out for the volleyball team. Freshman year, I made the JV team and, sophomore year, I made varsity. Now as a junior, I’m playing varsity and really enjoying my time playing the game I love.”
Coach Callender praises Payton for the versatility that she brings to H-K. Callender says that Payton always puts the team ahead of herself, and that’s one of the reasons why she’s such a great player.
“We had a player out for two matches this week. I threw Payton into two new positions, middle hitter and defensive specialist, and she did a phenomenal job with both,” Callender says. “I’m very proud of the player she has become.”
Payton credits Coach Callender for her rapid progression as a volleyball player. Payton also appreciates how much Callender cares about every athlete on H-K’s roster.
“Coach Callender takes the time to understand each player’s strength and weaknesses both on and off the court. I look up to her,” says Payton. “Her goal is not simply to win the next game. Her goal is to help foster strong independent women who will succeed in the future.”
Payton accomplished one of her major goals when she made H-K’s varsity team in her sophomore year. Payton has continually worked on her craft since becoming a starter, while she competes alongside her twin sister Audra.
“I knew to earn my spot on varsity, I needed more experience. So, I attend various clinics, focusing on my weaknesses,” Payton says. “Fortunately, my twin sister is also on the team, so we practice a lot in the backyard. Keeping physically fit is important, too. I work out as much as I can based on my school and volleyball schedule.”
After winning the Shoreline Conference title last year, the Cougars are on track to make another run for the crown in 2021. Payton feels confident that H-K has what it takes to claim both conference and state championships this year.
“My expectation for the season is to continue working hard and communicating well as a team,” says Payton. “We want to win Shorelines and, hopefully, states, too.”