U.S. Women's Junior Team: One Step At a Time At Worlds

July 15, 2009, 8:12 p.m. (ET)

Maura Gladys
Intern, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: Maura.Gladys@usav.org


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 15, 2009) – The U.S. Women’s Junior National Team is not approaching the 2009 FIVB Women’s Junior World Championship, held in Baja California, Mexico, from July 16-25, as a 10-day tournament. Instead, Head Coach Paula Weishoff and her team are taking it one step at a time.

“We’re going to focus on each point and each match and then we’re going to move on to the next one,” Weishoff said. “We’re looking at it as three matches, then a day off, then three matches, then a day off and then you have your two matches at the end. So if we can look at it that way, it puts it in a better perspective.”

Team USA, which will take on Cuba tomorrow in its opening match of pool play, secured its spot in the FIVB Women’s Junior World Championships last summer when it won gold at the NORCECA Women’s Junior Continental Championships. The U.S. went 2-1 in pool play in the NORCECA event, losing to Dominican Republic and defeating Canada and Costa Rica to reach the quarterfinals, where it defeated Mexico. It punched its ticket to the championship match with a semifinal win over Cuba. In the finals it took on Dominican Republic, who had handed them its only loss of the tournament during pool play. The U.S. exacted revenge on Dominican Republic, winning 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 to earn the gold medal.

The United States, ranked fourth in the world according to FIVB World Youth and Junior rankings, was placed into Pool D for the Women’s Junior World Championship, along with sixth-ranked Turkey, 24th ranked Cuba, and 54th-ranked Bulgaria. Although the schedule is subject to change, the U.S. tentatively scheduled to open the tournament on July 16 against Cuba. The Americans follow up with Bulgaria on July 17 and round out Pool D play with Turkey on July 18. The top two teams from each of the four-team pools will advance to the top eight, with the gold medal still in sight.

According to Weishoff, the U.S. is in one of the tougher pools. But she would rather play harder teams in the early rounds to prepare for later in the tournament.

“It is always the luck of the draw,” Weishoff said. “I think we have one of the tougher pools but you have to beat everyone to win anyway. I’d rather have tougher matches that will get us ready for the next leg. Either we are good enough or we are not.”

One obstacle that the United States will have to overcome is the lack of international experience from the players on the squad. Only setter Kendall Bateman (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), opposite hitter Hayley Spelman (Las Vegas, Nev.) and outside hitter/libero Lilla Frederick (Huntington Beach, Calif.) have previously participated in a NORCECA Championship or FIVB World Championship event. However, Spelman, who was a member of the gold-medal winning 2008 Women’s Junior National Team, is trying to ensure that her teammates are prepared for what they will face when they take the court.

“Last year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Spelman said. “This year, I can tell my teammates, ‘Hey, be ready for Cuba to be yelling at you from across the net,’ because I’ve been there before.”

The U.S. also took measures to ensure that its first look at international opponents wouldn’t be when they stepped on the court in Mexico. During its eight-day training session in Chula Vista, Calif., earlier this summer, the team played several scrimmages against the Netherlands, which Spelman says were invaluable.

“Scrimmaging the Dutch really helped with how we’re going to go into the tournament,” Spelman said. “A lot of the girls, after the first match against the Dutch, were like, ‘I’m so glad we played them before we went into the tournament or else I wouldn’t have known what I was doing.’ I think a lot of the girls are excited and ready to play.”

Joining Spelman, Bateman and Frederick on the roster are outside hitters Kelsey Black (Amarillo, Texas), Alex Hunt (Granger, Ind.), Ashleigh McCord (Wylie, Texas) and Sarah Shaw (Austin, Tex.), opposite Morgan Broekhuis (Colorado Springs, Colo.), middle blockers Amanda Dowdy (Thrall, Texas), Alexis Olgard (Spokane, Wash.) and Mallory Woolridge (Henrico, Va.), and setter Karissa Cook (Santa Cruz, Calif.).

Despite the lack of international experience, the players have been using their experiences on the college and club level to contribute to the team.

“Some of our older kids are college kids, so we’re depending on them too because they’ve been at a little bit higher level than the club kids,” Weishoff said. “Our younger kids are doing a really nice job in stepping into the responsibility role too.”