Nov. 26, 2008

By Lara Boyko
Special to NCAA.com

In Spanish ‘Yarimar’ means treasure of the sea.

Considering how 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter Yarimar ‘Yari’ Rosa leads all Division I schools in kills (5.21 per set) for the Florida International University, ‘Yarimar’ probably means big kills.

“I think she is every coach’s dream,” said FIU coach Danijela Tomic. “She is very talented, but she is also one of the hardest workers in practice. She has a natural gift where she knows the game really well, but I think what distinguishes her from other players is the passion she has for the game. She is a very humble person who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, but it’s hard for her not to be there consider what she has done for our program so far. She is just a joy to coach.”

Rosa is not only proving that you do not need to play at a big school to put up big numbers, but also how coaches can find talented players even when they are not actively looking for them.

“I was on a recruiting trip to see another kid in San Juan Puerto Rico at a high school game,” said Tomic. “She was one of the players playing and after asking about her, I was told that all of the big schools were recruiting her and that I had no chance. I talked to her mom after the game and left my contact information for them to stay in touch with me.

“All of the schools wanted to sign early and put some pressure on her to sign early, but she didn’t want to do it. In the spring of 2004 her mom emailed me and asked if I was still interested in her. Of course I was still interested in her so I replied by asking when she wanted to come on a visit. After coming here on her visit, she told us that she loved it here and felt most comfortable here. Also with Miami being so close to Puerto Rico, it was close to home for her. I told her that if she came to FIU, she would make a name for herself and our program instead of being a good player that went through a big program. That’s what she has done in three years.”

Since arriving at FIU in 2006, Rosa has been a treasure on the volleyball court for the Golden Panthers. From being the 2006 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the year, the 2006 AVCA Southeast Region Freshman of the Year, a two-time AVCA All-American, All-Southeast Region and first-team All-Sun Belt Conference player, Rosa has made her kills look like exclamation marks during each season.

Yet as impressive as her resume is now, Rosa started playing volleyball in a more humble setting and with innocent intentions.

“The first time I played volleyball I was 6-years old and in the third grade,” said Rosa. “My sister used to play volleyball for the school so I would go to practices with her. One day I was just waiting for her and the coaches asked me if I wanted to play on the team.”

“I remember just trying to get the ball over the net. The first time you get it over you are so happy, but I also remember being happy about getting my serve over the net.”

From those first days of playing to being a member of the Puerto Rican National team for several years, Rosa has a lot of court time to her credit. However, even with someone so experienced as herself, there are some moments in a set that even Rosa would prefer not to relive.

“When I am in the court and going up against someone one-on-one, I really hope that they don’t hit the ball towards my face,” said Rosa. “You just pray that they don’t hit your face.”

While Rosa may pray for an attacking error when she is on defense and the rest of the Golden Panthers are hopeful in getting their first NCAA tournament bid since 2001, Tomic is asking the universe for another special player who can make big kills to come her way sooner than later.

“I am counting down the days and want to cry knowing that I only have one more year with her,” said Tomic. “You really can’t replace a player like her. Every player is special and I had someone tell me recently that Yari is like Haley’s Comet – something special that only comes once every 1,000 years. I don’t think we can replace her. We just hope another special player like her will come into our program.”