A Memorable Trip to Colorado Springs

March 20, 2013

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - For four days in late February, five Maryland volleyball players visited the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to take part in the U.S. Women’s National Team open tryouts.

Sophomore outside hitter Ashleigh Crutcher, freshman setter Mackenzie Dagostino, freshman libero Amy Dion, sophomore middle blocker Adreené Elliott and sophomore outside hitter Emily Fraik represented the Terps at a tryout that featured a record 240 athletes. U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff were on hand to identify players for the U.S. National team as well as U.S. select teams and various other programs.

For head coach Tim Horsmon, the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the country and to be seen by coaches such as Kiraly is invaluable.

“It is an outstanding experience for the kids to play against that caliber of players across the country that are there attending and trying out,” said Horsmon. “Our national team coach is there, Karch Kiraly, along with some of the best coaches in the country. I think it’s an invaluable experience. Hopefully this is a confidence builder for them.

“I am hoping that they walk out of it with confidence that they can play with anybody. I wanted them to go through that experience not only to be seen, but also to know they can play with the best in the country.”

The players participated in three days of games, drills, and testing at the training center while also mixing in some free time to interact with other athletes at the tryouts as well as other athletes who live and train at the center. We were able to catch up with the girls and get their reactions to a unique opportunity. In addition, Adreené provided a daily account of her experience in Colorado Springs, which you can read by clicking here.

What was your goal/expectation heading into the tryouts?

Mackenzie: “My goal going out there was to play to make another USA team, but this time make a higher team than I played on two summers ago. Last year when I attended this tryout as a senior in high school, I was mostly in it for the experience, but after I had tested the waters and gained the experience that I was capable of playing with girls at that level I was ready to make an impression.”

Emily: “My goal heading into the tryouts was to make use of this incredible opportunity as a learning experience and an opportunity to expand my horizons. The best volleyball players in the country were there and to have the opportunity to compete and prove that we were able to be amongst the best was my objective.”

What is one thing you learned/improved on while in Colorado?

Mackenzie: “I believe I improved on disguising my sets, and not giving away who I was sending the ball to. As a setter it is very important to keep your opponents on their toes and guessing where you will send the ball next, and when you have a strong front line, and you're setting consistently, you can be unstoppable.”

Adreené: “I learned a new blocking mechanism that the USA team uses that allows me to be more explosive heading toward the pins.”

How will this experience help you back at Maryland?

Adreené: “It helped me realize just how important my job as a blocker is for the success of my team, but also that I can compete at a high level and how intimately confidence is linked to performance.”

Amy: “This experience gave me a lot of confidence. I wasn't below anyone or playing at a different level than anyone there. I realized I could play with anyone in the gym and if I go into every match I play with the same attitude I know that will increase not only my game but also others around me.”

What was your favorite experience from the trip?

Mackenzie: “My favorite experience was being able to practice where so many great volleyball players and other Olympic athletes have practiced before. How many people can say that they have been to the OTC and practiced in their gyms and slept in their dorms? Not many. The atmosphere of just being on that campus was remarkable; everyone that was housed there was living out their love for their specific sports. That is a place I want to be some day, as my profession, so getting a small feel of that life was absolutely invigorating!”

Ashleigh: “My favorite experience was hanging out with the other athletes staying there. We meet a lot of nice wrestlers and a blind swimmer who competes on the Paralympics team. We also hung out with John Orozco who was in this past Olympics on the men's gymnastics team.”

How do you think you played during the tryout?

Mackenzie: “Going into the tryout I was struggling with some foot pain, but I think that when I got out there I did very well. I found myself not focusing on competing with others but more on competing with myself. I feel like the more we focus on what other people do the less we focus on what we are capable of; I definitely found some inner strength that I didn't know existed and I am very proud of the way I performed.”

Emily: “I gave everything I had during the tryout and I thought I performed well. There are things that I need to improve and things that were highlighted in my mind as a result of the tryout, but I am overall happy with my performance and look forward to making the corrections needed so that I can move forward in my abilities.”