Lauren Paolini: USA Volleyball bound
Recently three members of the Longhorn Volleyball team traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., to participate in tryouts for the U.S. Women's National Training Team. Among those receiving invitations to return and train during the spring semester are junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini and teammates Destinee Hooker and Juliann Faucette. The same trio was also recently lauded with All-America honors.
In addition to a third-team AVCA All-America nod, Paolini was named to the AVCA All-Region and All-Big 12 first-teams in her junior season at Texas. The 6-5 middle blocker led the Longhorns in total blocks (130) and tied for the team lead in blocks per-game (1.26) in 2007. She led the UT squad in hitting and ranked eighth nationally with a .418 hitting percentage.
Paolini is no stranger to volleyball on the national stage as she was a member of the USA Volleyball A2 Red Team in 2007 and trained with the USA Volleyball A2 Junior National Team in 2005. The Ann Arbor, Mich., native recently sat down with TexasSports.com to discuss her experience at the tryouts, the expectation of playing against former Olympians and how she almost did not take this unique opportunity.
How did you feel going into the tryouts for the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Training Team? Going into tryouts was really nerve-wracking just because I didn't really know what to expect. I heard it was a tryout for the Olympics, but that was pretty much all I knew. Juliann and I talked to a lot of the other girls that were going, which made me feel better because we were all kind of nervous. Once we got into the tryouts and calmed down we were able to play a lot better.
What was the tryout like when you got to Colorado Springs? The tryout was a lot of technical stuff and training, which is different than a lot of tryouts. They are usually quick, three-day things where they just want to see you play and see if they want you to come back. Instead, this time they made the tryout longer -- it was a week. That gave us time to work back into volleyball and by the end of the week they would be able to see how we could really play, not just how we could play for a couple days without having played in over a month.
What will your schedule be like when you return to start your training? I think it will be a continuation of what we did during the tryout week. We had two practices a day. We played for three hours in the morning and two hours at night, so it was pretty much all volleyball all the time.
How does this work exactly? Will you be training to be on the Olympic team? So far what they have told us it that we will be training, ultimately, for the Olympics, but when the professional season ends in May some of those players will come back. That is when we will have to prove ourselves worthy of having one of the spots if we want to go to the Olympics. It will be interesting when the current players come back because they are obviously really good and very experienced. I know Logan Tom and Danielle Scott, who have played in four Olympics will be coming back, so we will be competing against those types of players. It will be tough, but it will be interesting and exciting to go up against professionals.
What was the decision making process like when you were presented with this opportunity? At first I was really torn between whether I really wanted to go or not because I will have to take a semester off from school and I am a junior going into my senior year now. I am kind of finishing up and I thought if I stayed I could just get school done with and then look into doing this type of thing. Then I talked to assistant coach Brian Hosfeld's wife (Jaimie), who has been through it all. She has played with the U.S. National Team and trained and she knows what it is like to be there. She said if I didn't go I would miss out on such a great opportunity and she would hate for that to happen to me. The Olympics are so spread out and the next one won't be until 2012 and I don't know what I could be doing by then. I might not even be playing volleyball. Jaimie told me that I should take this opportunity now, because there is always the opportunity to go to school in the future and I can do it when I get back without it being a big deal. By the end of our conversation I knew, I had to do it.