We finally arrived in Colorado Springs to try out for the USA National Team one day in the middle of February after a long day of cancelled flights, layovers and many airport pretzels and smoothies. Michelle (Moriarty) and I were scheduled to arrive in "The Springs" by that Friday afternoon but we actually ended up only beating (Jessica) Curtis and Brandy (Magee) -- who had taken a much later flight -- to the Olympic Training Center by only a few minutes.
Brandy and I were roommates in the OTC dorms for the two-day tryout and it reminded us of our freshman year when we roomed together on campus. We were still able to have fun together with only beds and a sink decorating our room. I never sleep well before big matches or a tryout like this weighing on my mind so my iPod became my best friend throughout the night.
Having the privilege to play with some of NCAA's top players and be evaluated by some of the best coaches in the world was an amazing feeling. The Big 12 was well represented at the tryout by players from Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas, as well as us Longhorns. It was really cool actually getting to meet and make friendships with conference players we've played against the past couple seasons.
However, the tryout sessions flew by and before we knew it we were back in Austin waiting to see if we made a national team.
The two weeks we had to wait to see how we performed at the tryout crept by so slowly. I was visiting my best friend, Amanda, who attends Texas A&M, when I decided to randomly check my e-mail one morning at her apartment. There it was sitting in my inbox: the email I had been waiting for!
I actually read the email incorrectly the first time and was disappointed that I didn't make a training team. Amanda was standing behind me as I read the email and was confused when she saw how disappointed I was. I got up from the computer and was puzzled to see her still staring at the screen. She told me, "I think you should re-read the top paragraph again." I knew by her voice that I had misread it and when I looked again, I saw that I made the National Training Team roster and would spend part of my summer at the OTC. I feel so lucky to have shared such an exciting moment like that with my best friend. I immediately called Coach (Jerritt Elliott) and my family to share the news. I was psyched!
When I arrived in Colorado Springs for training, I recognized another volleyball player, Rachel VanMeter from Illinois, at the same carrousel waiting for her luggage. We started talking and laughing about the dream I just had on the plane about the airline losing my luggage. Unfortunately, my dream had become reality. Through all of my travel, I have never once had my luggage lost until this trip. There was nothing we could do about the situation except for laugh. Rachel stayed behind with me to fill out paperwork for the airline, and then we were on our way to the OTC.
Team meetings and training didn't start until the next morning so we spent the day enjoying the amazing sunny, 70-degree weather. There was no Texas humidity and it was great!
I was switched to a different room that night and when I walked into it for the first time I had never seen so much red, black, and white in my entire life. Jennifer Saleaumua and Christina Houghtelling from Nebraska were my new roommates for training. We met during the tryout and it was great to get to know them and build friendships with such great rivals in the Big 12.
Of course, there was a nice ice-breaker right off the bat when we had a run-in with a huge wasp stuck in our window blinds. I've never seen three people run out of a room so fast in my life! We quickly learned that smothering a wasp in sweet-smelling perfume did absolutely nothing except stink up our room. Deborah Seilhamer, USC's libero, heard us screaming down the hall and she came running in, took one swing at the wasp with her flip-flop and it was killed and out of our room. Mission accomplished!
Anyway, we arrived on a Sunday, which can only mean two things: Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy ... the season finales, no less. I found a big-screen TV and staked out the entertainment room until the shows came on. I love those shows and my teammates were hooked, as well.
Thank goodness my luggage arrived thirty minutes before our first training session the next morning. I was lucky because for a while I thought I was going to have to sport Cornhusker red and white at practice. But I was able to wear my own clothes after all which was a nice relief.
The practice gym housed the National Team and the A2 National Training Team. Players came from all over the U.S. from their universities to train this summer in The Springs. I was a member of the A2 team, and it was an honor to be on the same court with all the great players and to look across the gym and see the National Team with Coach Lang Ping.
The training was something I have dreamed about since I started playing the sport of volleyball. To be coached by one of the top players to ever play the game - Lang Ping - was breathtaking. Jenny's (Lang Ping) coaching combines the best of both worlds, both Chinese and American philosophies. Something as simple as hitting lines and setting training has never been so memorable because I was training with the players I have grown up idolizing.
We spent a long week of training two-a-day sessions, lifting weights, and conditioning, all preparing for the U.S. Denver Open Championships. Every couple of training sessions, a few A2 players were switched to train with the National Team. Christina Houghtelling and I were usually on the same schedule, which was great because we would have two alarms waking us up from our afternoon naps instead of one. We had less chance of oversleeping that way!
A typical training day with the national team was:
8 a.m. - Breakfast
9-11 a.m. - Pass and serve practice
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - Weights and conditioning
3-7 p.m. - Practice.
Going from training at sea-level in Austin to 6,000+foot elevation, you can only imagine how rough it was to get acclimated to the altitude, not to mention the six to eight hours of training every day. After bottle upon bottle of water, we were finally performing at the level we needed to be for the tournament.
I felt so blessed to have the letters USA written on my back representing the USA Volleyball program. I was even more blessed to share the experience with great teammates and coaching, and most importantly, my family and boyfriend who had made the trip as well. I'm so lucky to have their support with me wherever I go.
The A2 team was split into two teams - red and blue - for the Denver Open Tourney. The other teams were more like "all-star" teams made up of other past great NCAA players and there were a total of nine entered at the Open. We only had two or three matches a day so I was able to spend a lot of time with my family and boyfriend seeing what Denver was all about. We found great restaurants and, of course, my sister and I found the shopping sites. We missed medaling at the tourney by a heartbreaking 13-15 fifth-game loss but it was still a great experience. International rules were a little different and one of the main differences was playing the best three-of-five game matches to 25 points (not 30) with the fifth game to 15 points.
When we were in Colorado Springs, the energy in the gym was indescribable. No matter how tired, how sore or how out-of-breath you were from the altitude, there was an undying passion to stay focused and competitive throughout every hour of training while you tried to find a way to get better. Now that I'm back in Austin for the remainder of the summer, that passion and intensity have only grown while training with our team here at Texas.
We've been working really hard every summer morning together as a team. We're getting into the best shape of our lives so we can have a strong pre-season at the beginning of August ... the '05 season is right around the corner! The Big 12 schedule and the San Antonio Final Four are at the back of everyone's mind. We can't wait for the season, especially our home-opener and play in front of you guys! Have a great summer and see ya'll at the Orange & White Scrimmage August 27th!
As always, "Hook'Em" and God Bless!