June 22

Today went by pretty fast. Once I landed and a few other girls arrived, we went to the dorm and checked in. We got some of our practice gear and went to our rooms until a meeting at 4:30. The dorms are…not of the highest quality. I do not have a roommate and am anxiously awaiting getting to sleep on a Hilton mattress. We had a three-hour practice where we played split court doubles.  It was pretty intense, but I thought I held my own offensively and defensively.  Sand definitely helped in that area!  After practice we had an overall team meeting where we talked about what the coaches are really looking for.  I definitely agreed with some of the tactics and am eager to share that with the UAB team.  Sweet dreams from Minnesota.

June 23

Well this morning was another three-hour practice where we worked on aggressive serving and the liberos, OH, and RS worked on a solid serve receive. We did a little work with middles and setters, but not much. We finished around 12 and went back to the dorms for lunch. We had another session at 3:00 where we worked on defense. I got to play a little right side, which worked out pretty well. I got my blocking mechanics down (which were rusty at first) and went after it in a wash drill to end the practice. We have a team function tonight, probably some get-to-know-you games? I am not sure. The good thing is that all of my gear fits and is long enough (haha)! After tomorrow’s two practices we will have the teams that we will be playing on for the rest of the time here.  That is all I have for now.  Peace out from the Twin Cities.

June 24

This morning was the standard breakfast at 7:45 a.m. and then off to the courts at 8:30.  We have to walk from our dorm to the campus rec center. This walk isn’t just around the corner—we venture through a lot of different staircases until we finally reach the gym. Today, there were a lot of groans as we climbed the many sets of stairs, but luckily the groans didn’t go unnoticed. When we were all laced up and ready to warm up, the coaches called us in a huddle and told us that they knew we were sore and as a treat, we got to give each other ball massages. Basically, you take a volleyball and rub it all over someone’s back. It doesn’t seem like much, but trust me, this morning it was heavenly. (I suggest if you do not know what a ball massage is, get a volleyball and try it out).  This morning’s session was good all around. We split up into teams of 6 and played a lot of different mini games. The good thing about playing with 6 people is that I get to play in the back row, which is pretty uncommon for a middle hitter. After practice, we came back to the dorm to eat lunch, but we went right back to practice at 3. Normally, we practice from 3-6, but today it was 3-5 due to freshmen orientation. Basically, there were about 200 students coming to eat in our cafeteria, so we ended practice early to get there before the crowd.  In this second session, we worked on defense and played a lot of mini games. There is an older coach here named Bill, and he reminds me a lot of Hal (Kerry, UAB Indoor head coach’s husband that recently passed away from cancer.)  Just about every practice, he stops what we are doing and tells us a really long volleyball story.  Although they are long, they are usually pretty interesting. There is no telling what the story is going to be about. The girls on my UAB team always talked about Hal’s stories and how he would sometimes stop practice and explain something that took up a pretty good chuck of time. However, both Bill and Hal are so respected, that you have to just let them talk. Today, after listening to a story, he looked at all of us and said, “Alright well I know we have to go to beat the crowds in the cafeteria so you all can eat. That’s what we do. We win in here, and we win in the cafeteria!” It may have been one of those, “had to be there moments,” but the entire gym erupted with laughter. So yes mom, I am having some fun.

Tonight the coaches will have a draft and pick teams for the rest of the tournament.  Tomorrow morning we will practice with our team and then in the afternoon have scrimmages. It may not seem like a lot, but it is always amazing to get to chant “USA on 3” at the end of every practice. Mini-Apple over and out.

June 25

“Out Team, Out Work, Out Play”

Today we practiced with our teams that we were split up into.  I am on “Team White” with two great coaches, Linda and Jay.  Linda actually reminds me a lot of my Aunt Peg, so I think we are going to have a really good time.  Linda and Jay brought us into the huddle and said, “We picked this team because of the people.  You guys are all great players, but you are also great people, and we, as coaches, want great people.”  At this point I knew that I was on the right team.  “Out Team, Out Work, Out Play” is our team motto.  In everything that we do, we will out team the other team, meaning that we work as a single unit and we work to make the person beside us better.  In everything we do we will out work the other team.  In everything we do, we will out play the other team.  The 12 athletes that we have, including myself, have completely bought into this concept and we are working together towards the same goal.  We all want to be on top and we are all willing to do what it takes to get there.  As our coach Jay put it, “You guys are all striving for the same goal, and on Monday, we are all going to have gold medals.”  We scrimmaged other teams in the afternoon session and I have come to find out that this experience is more than just getting physically better and physically stronger.  I have been put on a team where everyone, including the coaches, is giving everything they have to make each other better.  We have all bought into the concept of “Out Team, Out Work, Out Play.”  I am very excited to go into battle with my new teammates and conquer whatever team we may face.  Sweet dreams from Gopher country.

June 26

So today was transition day and I'm finally laying down in a hilton hotel. My team had a great practice this morning and our coaches rewarded us with an evening at the Mall of America. Naturally, I sent my family and friends tons of pictures from the inside. Funny thing is, we didn't really get that much accomplished. My teammates and I all wore our USA volleyball jackets to the mall and I realized how much we are looked up to (literally and figuratively.) We were probably able to go about 20 yards before we were stopped and asked to take pictures with younger girls and sign autographs. It is amazing how three letters on your back can inspire so many people. Today was just a short lens into reality. Three letters can cause an entire restaurant to chant when you walk in, can cause people to stop and take pictures of you (not just because you have really long legs,) and can make you feel so honored to be wearing them on your back. I am so honored to be wearing "USA" on my back and am so blessed to be able to compete for USA Volleyball. Sweet dreams from a very comfy Hilton bed.