Three athletes found success together on high school volleyball courts and have reunited to find success at a collegiate level on BYU’s court.
Makenna Santiago, Jaiden Achermann and Emily Lewis played together during their high school careers on the Lone Peak High School volleyball team. Playing on the same volleyball team again at the collegiate level at BYU is an unexpected and exciting opportunity.
“I always wanted to go to BYU, but knowing that some of my old teammates were here on the team was a huge factor,” freshman Emily Lewis said. “I loved Jaiden and I loved Makenna. So when I got here, even though I hadn’t played with them in a few years, it just rekindled that friendship and it’s literally been a blast every single day to play with them.”
All three women helped Lone Peak get to the state championships and played for various volleyball clubs. Santiago, a junior, was able to play for Utah Elite and Club Utah. Sophomore Achermann was a four-year starter during her high school career and played for Aces Athletics. She and her team went to Junior Nationals in 2009. Freshman Lewis played for Aces Athletics and was coached by former Cougar Christie Carpenter. During that time, Lewis qualified for the Junior Olympics and finished 22nd overall.
Although Santiago, Achermann and Lewis had great success in volleyball prior to BYU, they attributed their preparation for the collegiate level to their experience on the Lone Peak High School volleyball team.
“I loved playing at Lone Peak,” Santiago said. “I feel like Lone Peak had a strong program and a winning program, which I think is a good comparison with BYU. BYU is known for having a solid, winning program. I enjoyed my time at Lone Peak. It was a great environment to be in, great teammates, great coaches.”
The trio was able to see the growth of their teammates over the years. Each of the athletes brings specific strengths to the volleyball court. Santiago, Achermann and Lewis each play a different role in terms of play time during games and positions but they know the needs of the team.
“Emily is very vocal and brings a lot of energy and Makenna is super focused and gets the job done,” Achermann said. “They’re both different and I love it.”
Lewis said Achermann and Santiago bring their ability to serve-receive and their defensive abilities are highly needed to keep the game in motion. Both players are liberos and defensive specialists for the Cougars, but Santiago said she feels playing in the same position is a good thing.
“Jaiden is really loud, really aggressive and she pushes me,” Santiago said. “Even though it seems like we’re competing for the same spot, I think she’s my number one supporter.”
The special bond between Santiago, Achermann and Lewis isn’t exclusive to them. “Family” and “sisters” are frequent words used to describe the dynamic of the whole BYU volleyball team.
“We love each other and we just have fun.” Archermann said. “It shows on the court how much we love each other because how we act off the court. We are all close.”
The strong bond between the whole BYU women’s volleyball team can be seen as one of the team’s keys to success. BYU has won every game this season except for USC and Santa Clara. The Cougars have also had two of their teammates named WCC Player of the Week. Achermann had 90 digs and six assists and Santiago had 61 digs and 13 assists by the end of September. Lewis has not played in a game this season, but feels her role at this moment is to remain positive and be ready to play when the opportunity arises.
“When people ask my favorite part about BYU, it’s truly my teammates and coming to them every day is a blast for me to play with such amazing teammates.” Lewis said.
The friendships Santiago, Achermann and Lewis developed in high school are strengthened and magnified as they play together again on the BYU women’s volleyball team with the rest of their teammates. Their relationships on and off the court have shaped them into stronger athletes and allowed them to pave the way for further success.
“I think BYU has something pretty special with how we interact as teammates,” Santiago said. “Everyone gets along, everyone’s there for each other. It’s a really positive atmosphere and I think that’s something very special about BYU.”