March 21, 2011
Photo Gallery (Courtesy of USA Volleyball)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - Four Florida State University volleyball student-athletes recently competed in the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Open Tryouts held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sophomore middle blocker Sareea Freeman, sophomore right-side hitter Elise Walch, freshman middle blocker Ashley Neff and freshman libero Kaitlin Mosher took their skills across two time zones to be among 204 athletes who trained against some of the best collegiate players on Feb. 25-27. The immense turnout was a record for the event.
"Obviously this was a very valuable opportunity for our girls to try out," head coach Chris Poole said. "The best players in the nation are present for these tryouts and they have the opportunity to see how they size up overall. I'm really pleased with how well our girls matched up statistically to the best in the nation."
The U.S. Women's National Team coaching staff - including head coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) and assistant coaches Karch Kiraly (San Clemente, Calif.) and Paula Weishoff (Irvine, Calif.) - led the evaluation oversight process. According to McCutcheon, the tryouts were a success.
"Overall, I am very happy with the tryouts," McCutcheon said. "We had a great group of athletes on the court, and our court coaches and stat crew did well in evaluating the talent. This was a good opportunity for the players to show what they could do."
Among the 204 tryout participants representing 81 different colleges were 56 outside hitters, 51 middle blockers, 46 liberos, 27 setters and 24 opposites.
The U.S. Women's National Team program is open to athletes who have concluded their college eligibility and who wish to train full-time. College athletes with collegiate eligibility remaining for the 2011 season and not selected to the USA Women's National Team may be invited to participate in the U.S. Women's National Senior A2 Team.
Neff received a bit of encouraging news when she found out that she was named as an alternate player to the U.S. Women's National Senior A2 program, which consists of 36 collegiate athletes with remaining eligibility. Should a middle blocker decide to drop out of the program due to injury or any other circumstance, Neff would have an opportunity to train and compete for the program in Dallas from May 23 through June 1, and culminate with a chance to play in the 2011 USA Volleyball Open National Championships.
Neff, from Kennesaw, Ga., played in 15 matches as a freshman last season at FSU. She recorded 57 blocks, 1.10 blocks per set and 40 kills, and also won the team's strength and conditioning award.
"It was a lot of fun to meet and play with girls from all over the country," Neff said. "It was a great experience playing at such a high level with some of the top players. It's always cool to be around so many people with the same goals and competitive drive."
Mosher, who is expected to replace senior Jenna Romanelli as the team's starting libero, also had a fulfilling tryout. She was one of 65 athletes eligible to be evaluated for the U.S. Women's Junior National Team, which consists of prospects who were born in 1992 or 1993. The U.S. Women's Junior National Team will compete in the FIVB Women's Junior (U-20) World Championship to be held July 21-30 in Peru.
Mosher redshirted last season and has four remaining years of eligibility. She is from Fort Meyers, Fla., and has improved significantly since coming to FSU last fall.
"It was an awesome experience to play against some of the top players in the country," Mosher said. "We had an opportunity to play against some of our quality opponents who we will see in the fall."
Also competing were Freeman and Wisconsin transfer Elise Walch. Freeman will play a significant role in her junior season at FSU after teaming with former middle blocker Lauren Young to form one of the best tandems in the ACC. Last year, the Fresno, Calif., native averaged nearly one block per set and was fifth on the team with 145 kills.
"The Nationals Tournament was a great way to be exposed to all the great players," Freeman added. "I really loved the fact that I had a chance to be a part of that experience. Even though I didn't make the team, you make friends with a lot of the other players and I really had a ton of fun. I can't wait to try out again next year."
Walch is also expected to contribute next season, currently training with right-side hitting duties while having the ability to be a middle blocker. She finished second on the Badgers last season with 2.56 kills per set, and played in 28 matches. As a top-notch high school prospect in 2010, Walch continues to improve by training against some of the country's best players as well as with her own teammates in what should be another strong season for the Seminole volleyball squad.