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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 14, 2009) – Summer Ross (Carlsbad, Calif.) is not your typical teenager.
At only 16-years-old, Ross has travelled to Australia and England to compete in high-level beach volleyball tournaments. She is slated to head back to England and to Turkey within the next two months for two more world-class beach events.
Ross has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s top beach volleyball players. She has played against women more than 20 years her senior ... and won.
“She’s going to be a star,” said Ali Wood Lamberson, director of Beach Programs for USA Volleyball.
Ross will add to her impressive resume this summer and fall when she competes in the SWATCH FIVB Youth (U-19) World Championships Aug. 19-23 in Alanya, Turkey, and the SWATCH FIVB Junior (U-21) World Championships Sept. 16-20 in Blackpool, England.
At the FIVB Youth World Championships, Ross will be playing with Jane Croson (Los Alamitos, Calif.). At the FIVB Junior World Championships, she is paired with Jazmin Machado (Encinitas, Calif.), a junior at UCLA.
It is rare for an athlete to compete in both divisions, but due to the start of the NCAA season, and Ross’ advanced ability, she was an obvious choice.
“The U-21s are always in early September, which is right in the middle of the NCAA season, so it’s very difficult for us to get athletes in that age range to go to that event,” Lamberson said. “Also, Summer has shown a lot of potential really early.”
“I was so surprised and honored when they chose me,” Ross said. “My goal is to win and to just have fun.”
Ross’ trip to Blackpool will be a family affair as her brother, Chase Ross (Carlsbad, Calif.), will be competing in the men’s tournament with Steven VanderWerp (Grand Haven, Mich.). Chase will be a junior at Pepperdine in the fall. Summer says the siblings’ relationship is supportive and not competitive.
“We definitely lean on each other and support each other,” Ross said. “We bump in the backyard all the time. Being around each other and training is just great.”
This will be Ross’s second trip to the SWATCH FIVB Junior World Championships. She competed in the 2008 edition in Brighton, England, at age 15 with Croson. The pair competed against girls five to seven years older than them and advanced out of their pool, placing ninth overall.
Ross and Croson defeated Teresa Andessner and Madita Knoppel of Austria 21-18, 21-14 and upset second-seed Amanda Maltez and Natasha Paula Borges of Brazil 21-16, 23-21 to advance into the elimination rounds. They fell to Monika Brzostek and Karolina Sowala of Poland 21-13, 21-12 in the first elimination round, but Ross is still happy with the result.
“It was a good learning experience,” Ross said. “It was a little intimidating, but we just had fun and did our best.”
Ross continued to make headlines internationally this January when she and Tara Roenicke (Los Osos, Calif.) represented the United States at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, Australia. The pair went 5-0 and won the gold medal, defeating Zina Stone and Mariafe Artacho of Australia.
One of the highlights of the tournament for Ross was meeting Australian beach volleyball player and 2000 Olympic Games gold medal-winner Natalie Cook, who spoke with Ross and gave her an autograph.
“She gave us some great advice,” said Ross of Cook. “She signed my ball ‘Go for the Gold.’”
Ross made history this July when she and partner Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, Calif.) became the youngest team ever to qualify for an AVP event when they qualified at the Manhattan Beach Open on July 17 in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Ross and Hagglund, 17, defeated Kim Keifer and Jana Monella, who are both 41, 21-15, 21-19 and Sarah Day and Lynnsy Jones 19-21, 21-15, 15-13 to qualify for the main draw.
The duo was given a daunting test right off the bat when they took on top-seeded Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.), 30, and Elaine Youngs (El Toro, Calif.), 39, in the first round on center court. Ross and Hagglund even jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Branagh and Youngs. But the veterans eventually came out on top, winning 21-12, 21-8. Although the Ross/Hagglund duo went on to lose to Cindie Valeriano Boosin and Tealle Hunkus 21-14, 17-21, 18-16 in the consolation bracket, Ross is still thrilled with the experience.
“It was so fun,” Ross said. “I was smiling the whole time. They (Branagh and Youngs) were so nice to us. I was happy that we managed to get a couple points off of them.”
According to Lamberson, Ross’s untroubled demeanor and ability to play well with several partners is a huge factor in her success.
“Summer is very easy to play with for all her partners, and that’s so much a part of the doubles game,” Lamberson said. “She gets along with them and makes them a better player.”
Although most of her accolades have come on the beach, Ross is also an avid indoor volleyball player. She currently plays on her high school team at Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, Calif., and aspires to play both beach and indoor volleyball in college.
“Hopefully in college I’ll be able to do both,” Ross said. “I really want to be near the beach. That will definitely be a big part of the decision.”
This is only the beginning for Ross. At just age 16, she has experience more than most athletes her age, and has seen incredible success. With the rate she is going at, Lamberson believes she could be a huge star.
“She could be the next Kerri Walsh. She is 6-2 and still growing. She has great hands and great shots, so as she develops and gets stronger as an athlete, she is going to be pretty scary.”
So for this atypical teenager, Ross still has room to grow in the sport.