After missing her junior season, Temple City’s Taylor Yu is making a big impact

Taylor Yu passes to teammate Elizabeth Hung during Temple City’s nonleague match against Pasadena.
Taylor Yu passes to teammate Elizabeth Hung during Temple City’s nonleague match against Pasadena.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)
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It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

So it is for Temple City High volleyball player Taylor Yu, who had to sit out her entire junior year because of an injury. However, the setback only made her hungrier and she has returned to the court determined to make up for lost time.

Although her natural position is setter, Yu is thriving at outside hitter for the Rams, who without their star finished in the Rio Hondo League cellar and failed to make the playoffs last fall.

In Temple City’s first four matches this season — all wins — Yu recorded 123 kills, nine aces, four blocks and 45 digs. Her versatility is appreciated on a squad that features two other senior setters in Elizabeth Hung and Jocelyn Hou.

Taylor Yu, celebrating a point with Jessica Casper, had 35 kills and 15 digs in Temple City’s nonleague victory at Pasadena.
Taylor Yu, celebrating a point with teammate Jessica Casper (4), had 35 kills and 15 digs in Temple City’s nonleague victory at Pasadena.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

“I tore the meniscus in my right knee two weeks before junior nationals last summer,” Yu said. “I missed the whole high school season. I was on crutches for six weeks and out of action for five or six months. I started PT [physical therapy] two weeks after I had surgery [last July] and I did that two to three days a week. I knew I’d come back, but I wasn’t sure I’d be the same. One of the hardest things about that whole situation was getting over the mental hurdle of self-doubt.”

She remembers how the injury occurred in great detail.

“It was actually kind of silly and stupid,” Yu recalls. “I was setting in a 6 a.m. club practice and the ball got passed into the air, hit the ceiling and ricocheted in a different direction. Well, I was following the ball so my body went with it and suddenly it felt like something was out of place. I walked it off but I ended up getting an MRI and found out what it was. That was a bummer!”

Yu was among 20 players from across the country to make the USA Volleyball U19 roster for the 2023 Pan Am Cup, but her knee was still bothering her and that forced her to miss a few of the training sessions in Anaheim. She did not make the cut when the final roster was reduced to 12 to travel to the competition May 7-15 in Puerto Rico, but in one sense it was a blessing in disguise as it gave her extra time to heal.

Yu had a follow-up surgery, called a ‘quick scope,’ in July and the senior, who turns 17 in October is happy to finally have a pain-free knee — and a driver’s license.


“I’m so glad to be off the pain killers,” she said, laughing.

Yu sets for the Roshambo of San Gabriel Elite Volleyball, based in Atwater Village. She has been with the club since she started playing volleyball, winning the GJNC 11 National championship in 2018 and GJNC 12 National title in 2019. She was all-tournament in the GJNC 15 Open division in 2021.

A 4.0 student, Yu is committed to Stanford, which she describes as her “dream school.”

“I mean, what’s not to like? It’s got great academics, great weather and obviously an amazing volleyball program,” the pony-tailed six-footer said. “I’m committed as a setter, which is great. I like hitting, but I’m not the tallest so I knew that wouldn’t take me as far. As a setter you’re the quarterback. I like dumping, attacking on two and messing with blockers.”

Mater Dei, coming off the Volleypalooza tournament title in Texas with a No. 1 national ranking, can’t take a set off Mira Costa on Tuesday night.

Aug. 29, 2023

Asked if she prefers high school or club, she cannot decide: “I like it all. In high school I get to play with my friends but in club we get to travel more and room with each other, which is fun.”

Yu has lived on the outskirts of Temple City since she was in first grade and despite her natural athletic ability she has resisted temptations to transfer to a private school, in part because her father, Nathan, is a public school teacher. At his daughter’s insistence, he is also her coach.

“Last year was his first year,” Taylor says. “I asked him if he’d do it because our coach [Kristen Chen] was moving to a different state and we needed someone to step in. Of course, I got hurt and had to be a cheerleader but it’s a good situation. My dad treats everyone the same — including me. We don’t talk about volleyball much at home.”

A graduate of Alhambra High, Nathan Yu has coached since 1997 — first at his alma mater, then at Citrus College and Cal State L.A. He believes in the long run that his daughter’s injury might have helped the team improve faster as he had time to work exclusively with the other girls.


“It was more fun because it was pure coaching and teaching,” Nathan said. “It was challenging without her but you try to find a balance between winning games and getting better. They’ve had me for two years and with Taylor back and [junior outside hitter] Kaitlin Kong having more experience, we’re a lot better. La Canada and South Pasadena are typically the teams to beat in our league and a lot of their girls play club with Taylor, but I like our chances.”

Taylor Yu (30) listens as her dad, Temple City head coach Nathan Yu, gives the team instructions during a timeout.
Taylor Yu (30) listens as her dad, Temple City head coach Nathan Yu, gives the team instructions during a timeout.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Nathan teaches history and math at Montebello High. For the most part, he and wife Sinath allowed Taylor to choose her own path growing up.

“We never pushed her into sports and she gravitated towards basketball initially,” Nathan said. “Once she started volleyball her club coaches saw her potential and her physical gifts. We encouraged her here and there but from the age of 12 on it’s been all her, I haven’t had to push her. In fact, she’s the one trying to pull me into the gym, even when I don’t want to go. I’ll be like, ‘Don’t you have homework to do?’ She’s super driven to perfect her craft and she absolutely hates to lose.”

For a while, Taylor played center in basketball and outside hitter in volleyball. “At first I was an outside but when I was 10 they put me at setter,” she said. “I didn’t like it at first but then again trying anything new was scary for me. I liked basketball more and they overlapped so I played both at the same time until I quit basketball when I was 11.”

Temple City is anything but a volleyball hotbed, although the Rams won a CIF Southern Section title in 2002 and Yu desires nothing more than to end her prep career with a championship while following in the footsteps of San Gabriel Elite and Temple City High alum Serena Gray, who now plays on the U.S. women’s national team.