Volleyball players gain valuable experience at tryouts

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— Katie Carter admits the scene is sometimes intimidating even for a confident athlete.

Entering a gymnasium and seeing rows of nets poking up between swarms of other volleyball players and coaches induces both excitement and stomach butterflies.

From April 11-14, Carter and teammate Allison Griffing participated in the Crossroads Junior National Team qualifier in Kansas City, Mo. Paired off against some of the premier club teams in the nation, Carter and Griffing's Avalanche 17 team finished 29th out of 40 teams.

"It went really well," Carter said. "We played well, but we played some hard teams."

Avalanche 17, based out of Edwards, compiled a 1-2 match record April 12 before rebounding with two wins and a loss in the April 13 consolation rounds. Facing single elimination April 14, the Avalanche 17 won its first contest but dropped the second to conclude its tournament run. Six of the matches they played went to the tiebreaking third set.

"They played some tough volleyball and I was extremely pleased with them" coach Leon Fell said. "When we play good teams and can play them tough, I'm a happy camper."

In addition to the team competition, Carter and Griffing also participated in the High Performance Camp tryouts on April 11. Unfortunately for the girls, this individual testing portion designed to help USA Volleyball officials select athletes for its Junior National Team and elite camps was held on the eve of their extensive road trip from Steamboat Springs to Kansas City.

On the floor of the H. Roe Bartle Hall Convention Center court, the athletes were tested on things such as vertical jump, reach, speed and overall athleticism for nearly four hours. Carter said she was disappointed in her play and results, which may be attributed to going from a car to practice.

Fell said it is imperative to keep in mind Carter and Griffing were sometimes paired with players used to different systems than the two Steamboat Springs players are accustomed to in either high school or club. With that in mind, Fell said the evaluators skirting between the courts are looking at more than just the ability to spike and set.

"They understand there are a lot of different philosophies out there," he said. "They are looking at things like athleticism, jump, quickness and coachability."

Fell said Carter's backcourt passing was impressive in addition to the improved quickness in her arm swing. Griffing is also working to improve the speed in her approach and attack, but Fell said she needs no work on ball velocity.

"She darn took a kid's head off," Fell laughed. "She just hits it so hard."

College coaches were prohibited from attending the April 11 testing event. However, Carter said her UCLA coaches were at all of her tournament games, and she was pleased she performed better in those games than during the tryout.

Should Carter or Griffing be selected to take part in either the second Junior National Team try-out May 25-27 or in three later High Performance Camps at various locations, they have a decision to make.

"With the camps, it would probably depend on where it was," Carter said. "But if I was selected to be on the Junior National Team, I would absolutely take it."

While it might appear obvious that an athlete would want to represent her country on the Junior National Team, Fell said the High Performance Camp invitations are coveted and shouldn't be discarded.

"It is the best individual camp anyone can go to all summer," he said. "It's grueling. It's tough, but the instruction is great."

According to USA Volleyball, there are still five tryout dates remaining with the final one wrapping up April 28 in Sacramento, Calif. Officials will evaluate the players at the conclusion of all six camps and notify those selected.

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