Three players to join USA Volleyball National Training Team
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Head Coach "Jenny" Lang Ping announced Tuesday that three Texas players are among the 10 players that have accepted offers to train with Team USA at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Longhorns' freshman outside hitter Juliann Faucette, junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini and sophomore outside hitter Destinee Hooker received offers to train with the team after participating in an invitation-only tryout held Jan. 7-12 in Colorado Springs.
Faucette, a San Diego, Calif., native was the 2007 AVCA National Freshman of the Year in her first season on the Forty Acres. The outside hitter paced the UT squad with a team-best 445 kills, while hitting at a .324 clip and averaging 4.49 kills and 2.51 digs per-game. Faucette competed for the U.S. National Team at the Azteca Cup in September 2006 and was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team in 2006.
Hooker, the two-time defending NCAA outdoor high jump champion will skip her junior year of track and field eligibility to train with Team USA. The San Antonio, Texas, native was a 2007 second-team AVCA All-America selection after hitting .339 and tallying 4.52 kills, 2.00 digs and 1.02 blocks per-game during her sophomore campaign. Hooker spent two weeks training with the U.S. National Team last summer and is vying to make her first USA Volleyball team.
Paolini, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native garnered third-team AVCA All-America accolades in 2007 after enjoying a breakout season. The junior led her Longhorns' club, hitting at a team-best .418 clip and leading the team with 130 total blocks. Paolini was a member of the USA Volleyball A2 Red Team in 2007 and a member of the USA Volleyball A2 Junior National Team in 2005.
The invitation-only tryout participants earning training team spots include UT's Paolini, Hooker and Faucette; Stanford University's Bryn Kehoe (L/S, Sr., North Bend, Ohio) and Alix Klineman (OH, Fr., Manhattan Beach, Calif.); University of California-Berkeley's Angie Pressey (OH, Sr., Heathrow, Fla.) and Morgan Beck (OPP, Jr., Coto De Caza, Calif.); UCLA's Rachell Johnson (OH, Sr., San Diego, Calif.); Long Beach State University's Alexis Crimes (MB, Sr., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.); and Loyola Marymount University's Heather Hughes (OPP, Sr., Fallbrook, Calif.). One additional player from the invitational tryout may be added at a later date.
The 2008 U.S. Women's National Training Team started the calendar year with national team veterans Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.), Nicole Davis (L, Stockton, Calif.), Lindsey Hunter (Setter, Papillion, Neb.) and Katie Wilkins (OH, Lakeside, Calif.). Stanford University junior teammates Foluke Akinradewo (MB, Plantation, Fla.), the 2007 AVCA Division I National Player of Year and the Honda Award winner for best collegiate volleyball player, and Cynthia Barboza (OH, Long Beach, Calif.) are part of the U.S. National Training Team with Akinradewo already in camp and Barboza expected to report in mid-March. Angie McGinnis (S, Fraser, Mich.) completed her collegiate career at University of Florida this past fall and is training in Colorado Springs full-time with Team USA. Tatum Ailes (L, Bellevue, Neb.) trained earlier this spring with the national team, but is not on the active training roster. Other U.S. Women's National Team players currently competing overseas will reconvene training in Colorado Springs by early May 2008.
U.S. Women's National Training Team athletes will compete this spring for tournament roster spots this summer. Team USA earned its berth into the 2008 Olympic Games by finishing third at the FIVB World Cup in November 2007.
In addition, the USA Women's National Team will hold its annual "Open Tryout" at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 22-24. This tryout will be used to identify possible candidates for the U.S. National and Olympic Team, as well as the A2 program which is planning to train in Atlanta from approximately May 19-28, 2008. This time frame includes competing in the 2008 U.S. Open Championships at the Atlanta Convention Center from May 24-27. Registration closed Jan, 15, 2008. Late registrants will be taken on a space available basis.
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
On what it means personally to have three of his athletes invited: I'm so happy for them. As a coach you are always very involved with the athletes and you want to see them be successful. For all three of them to be chosen is breathtaking and really shows the kind of women we have in our program. It will be extremely challenging for them because they will be competing with 25 to 30 year old women who have been around the block in terms of competing in international volleyball. It is going to be a tremendous experience for them.
On how many spots they are competing for: The Olympic roster has 12 spots and what happens is that right now a lot of the top players are competing overseas professionally, but these young ladies will compete amongst each other along with some of the veterans that are in Colorado Springs. As the professionals come back they will compete for those twelve spots, but they also have the opportunity to make the roster that is going to the Pan America Cup in March which will be in China. Potentially they may get to play in another tournament in Mexico later on in the year. When those players come back they will be making cuts periodically to determine who will make those top 12 spots.
On Destinee Hooker giving up track this season to focus on volleyball: She is a tremendous athlete who could be successful in many sports. She has dedicated herself to two sports at UT. Her volleyball has gotten significantly better in the short time we have had her in our gym, and I think she has the potential to be one of the better players internationally. The nice thing is that she will be granted another year of eligibility for track and field down the road and she can still make the USA Track and Field team should this not work out with volleyball.
On what this means for the remainder of the team staying in Texas: We will be down to seven players, but I think our team understands what a terrific opportunity this is for the three players that will be representing us in Colorado Springs. This is also a tremendous opportunity for the players who are here because we are still going to play spring ball and they will get to play in every single match. They are going to get the passing reps and the opportunity to train and get that experience instead of maybe sitting on the sideline. This really benefits everybody, but I think that the key is that the three players going to Colorado will get an extra six hours of training a day compared to what they would be able to have here in our gym.
On what Team USA taking three players says about the Texas program: It says a lot and potentially we could have had four with Ashley (Engle), but she decided to turn it down to focus on her setting with our team. It is very exciting for us and it shows the kind of talent we have in our program right now. The advantages are significant. Each level that you go up in the game, the speed of the game and the physicality is significantly different. The experience level that these young women are going to gain by going up against 30 year-old women on a daily basis is going to be a tremendous asset because they are going to have to learn how to do things differently. To be able to bring that back to our gym next year is going to give them a lot of confidence.
JUNIOR MIDDLE BLOCKER Lauren Paolini
On how this may help the team in the fall: Playing so extensively with two of my teammates will help us play better together. This spring we will get to train so many more hours than we normally would and that will really help us understand how each other plays. I think we will learn how to help each other and how to work together, which I think will carry through to the fall.
On what she expects to get out of this experience: I think the level of competition on a day to day basis is going to be a key to our progress individually and will really push us to get better.
On what people in Colorado will see out of Destinee Hooker: Like Coach Elliott said, Destinee has a tremendous amount of talent, so I think they will be surprised with how athletic she is and how high she can jump, if they don't already know.
On how it feels to get back on the court: After losing in Florida it was really rough, so it was nice to have a break from volleyball to recover from that, but I'm definitely ready to get back at it and train hard in Colorado Springs.
FRESHMAN OUTSIDE HITTER Juliann Faucette
On how it feels to being going with two teammates: It is really a comforting feeling to know that I will have some familiar faces there, especially on the court. I know how they play and how they act. It is very comforting.
On the tryout experience: It started out with everyone just trying to get in the groove of things because a lot of us had not played in a month. We started out with technique, but by the end of the week we ended up playing some six-on-six type of games and getting a little more competition. It was more than a tryout in the sense that "Jenny" Lang Ping was coaching and giving us feedback instead of just seeing how we play. There was a lot more hands on work, so that was cool.
On what she expects to get out of this experience: Personally, I want to learn from the older women. The leadership skills that they have acquired from years and years of playing volleyball are invaluable. Technique wise, I think it is going to be really great because of how many reps I am going to get and that is really important and something I need to work on. The whole experience of being around these other women who compete as hard or harder than we do here and want to win will be a great environment for me to experience.
On what people in Colorado will see out of Destinee Hooker: I think team chemistry is really important and Destinee brings that, especially with her fire and drive on the court. I think that it will be a lot of fun to watch her in a new setting and see how those women feed off of her spirit on the court.
SOPHOMORE OUTSIDE HITTER Destinee Hooker
TEXAS WOMEN'S TRACK AND FIELD HEAD COACH BEV KEARNEY