Inseparable since pre-kindergarten, Chaminade’s standout trio of Sydney Armbrister, Jacqui Koebel and Jackie Yao is that long running hit band on its last tour.
When the Lions (17-7) face Somerset in the District 14-4A playoffs Tuesday, it will mark the final journey these childhood friends — who have grown close as sisters — will embark on together in volleyball.
“It’s like a family,” Armbrister said. “Jacqui, Jackie and I have grown up together. It is kind of surreal to know we have been together so long. It’s crazy to think we have been playing club and high school ball for so many years, and it’s almost done.”
The trio first made a name for itself at St. Rose of Lima Middle School before moving on to Chaminade, where they helped the Lions rank among the elite teams under coach Jason Johnson.
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The Lions hope the chemistry Armbrister, Koebel and Yao developed playing together through middle school and high school will pay dividends in their state playoff run.
“From middle school to now we know each other like the back of our hands,” Koebel said. “Just like chemistry. If I can’t get to the ball I know they will be behind me. I know how Sydney and Jackie play. I know they will cover me.”
Koebel, who is headed to James Madison on a volleyball scholarship, has been a force as an outside hitter with 175 digs and 204 kills.
The middle blocker Armbrister, a Delaware State commit, has given the Lions a formidable inside presence with 56 blocks and 178. Yao, meanwhile, has provided a spark off the bench with 23 kills and 326 assists.
If things hold true to form Chaminade, the No. 2 seed, will meet top seed Pine Crest in the district championship game Friday.
But before the Lions can think about avenging their regular-season loss to Pine Crest, they will have to get past Somerset and then the Calvary Christian-University School winner.
The storybook ending for Armbrister, Koebel and Yao would be to advance past the regional finals and cap a friendship that started at 4 years old as state champions.
Ransom Everglades, the reigning state champion, however, once again looms as the trio’s party crashers.
Ransom has ended the Lions’ season the past two seasons in the regional playoffs and reminded everyone it still has Chaminade’s number by beating it in the Smoothie King Invitational semifinals last weekend.
Still, Johnson believes Armbrister, Koebel and Yao have not played their best volleyball and that the Lions could be a dark horse with fellow senior stalwarts Alexandria Hawkins, Kimeko Bennett and Sierra Perry.
“The chemistry that Sydney, Jacqui, and Jackie have is important,” Johnson said. “It is a real thing. It helps them with their communication, with trust on the court. They have been here before. Their experience of playing together is something you can’t replicate.”