Volleyball duo honored for hard work

Two USC student-athletes have been honored not for their work under the bright lights on gameday, but for their dedication to preparing for the biggest of moments.

Sophomore middle blocker Robert Feathers and graduated defensive specialist Erin Yoder of the USC men’s and women’s volleyball teams were named All-American Strength and Conditioning Athletes of the Year Monday by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which recognizes student-athletes with outstanding dedication to strength training and conditioning.

Dedication · Senior defensive specialist Erin Yoder can attribute much of her 18 career service aces to her improved strength and conditioning. - Chris Pham | Daily Trojan

Dedication · Senior defensive specialist Erin Yoder can attribute much of her 18 career service aces to her improved strength and conditioning. – Chris Pham | Daily Trojan

The NSCA, which has been commemorating athletes’ commitment to overall fitness and physical preparation for 34 years, honored 229 collegiate and high school athletes from 98 schools with this award this year.

In just his second year, Feathers has become one of the top middle blockers in the nation. The Pacific Palisades native ranks fifth nationally in hitting percentage (.395) this season and was named the Sports Imports/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II Men’s National Player of the Week on Jan. 15 of this year.

During USC’s run to the NCAA championship match last season, his 1.60 blocking average led the nation and notched a Trojan rally scoring era record with 154 blocks. His feats earned him the honor of being named the 2012 “Off The Block” National Blocker of the Year.

A high school All-American honorable mention, Feathers has made great strides since then in his dexterity and technique.

“Robert came to USC with good strength, but difficulty with control and full range of motion, specifically with lower body movement,” USC assistant strength and conditioning coach Brent Metz told USCTrojans.com. “He is an example of hard work paying off. He spent every day last summer focusing on technique. As a result, he is able to not only lift more weight, but all his movements are more fluid.”

Yoder played 101 matches for USC during her four years on the team. She recorded 11 serviced aces during her senior season, including four against Cal on Oct. 12, a career-best for aces in a single match. She finished her career with 21 service aces and 181 digs, and her performance on and off the court last season was rewarded when she was named a Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention. She was a member of two USC teams that advanced to the NCAA national semifinals (2010 and 2011).

Yoder’s strength and conditioning improved in multiple areas throughout her career, which led to her increased role with the team as she gained more experience.

“Erin’s ability to understand exactly how to do any movement and then repeat that same performance day in and day out is amazing,” Metz said to USCTrojans.com. “She has dramatically improved in every single lift, agility drill, jump and spring since her freshman year and her attention to detail is a thing of beauty.”

Though Yoder’s career came to a close in December, Feathers is not yet halfway through his Trojan career. Amid a disappointing 2012-13 year, the men’s volleyball team will wrap up its regular season this week, with two games remaining against UC Santa Barbara and UCLA.