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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 15, 2009) – When the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team competes in the FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship July 3-12 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, U.S. Girls’ Youth Head Coach Jim Stone is not looking for a few stars to lead the team to victory. Instead he is looking for a complete team effort from the 12-player roster.
“I don’t think this is going to be a star-driven team,” Stone said. “I think it’s going to be success by committee. Everybody is going to have to pitch-in.”
Team USA punched its ticket to the FIVB World Championship last summer when it won the NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship in Puerto Rico. In NORCECA pool play, the U.S. defeated the Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Americans beat host Puerto Rico in the semifinals to set up a championship match with Mexico, which the U.S. won 25-17, 25-14, 25-20.
Team USA, ranked No. 4 in the latest FIVB world ranking for the youth and junior levels, has been placed into Pool D for the 2009 FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship. The pool includes European champion and No. 11 Belgium, NORCECA runner-up and No. 19 Mexico, and Asian winner and two-time FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship gold-medalist, Japan, which is ranked No. 3. The U.S. opens the tournament on July 3 against Mexico before facing Belgium on July 4 on the middle day of pool play. The Americans’ pool play concludes on July 5 against Japan. The top two teams in each of the four pools advance to the top eight with the gold medal still in sight.
Despite the tough draw, Stone sees it as a positive.
“In any tournament, if you are going to win a gold medal, you are going to have to play somebody that is good, whether you play them first or last,” Stone said. “I think it is a good, positive challenge. I think if we are able to make it out of this pool, we will be prepared for any teams in the other pools.”
Pool A consists of host and No. 15 Thailand, No. 7 Serbia, No. 10 Egypt and No. 14 Germany. Defending World Champion and top-ranked China headlines Pool B. It is joined by No. 6 Turkey, No. 12 Tunisia and No. 13 Peru. Pool C is comprised of No. 2 Brazil, No. 5 Italy, No. 8 Dominican Republic and No. 28 Slovakia.
Team USA begins training June 16 at Chula Vista, Calif. Stone said that his main goals are avoiding injuries while stressing the differences between playing in a club tournament and representing the United States at the FIVB World Championship.
“We have about half the team that has not played internationally,” Stone said. “A lot of what we are going to try and do is get them up to speed regarding the differences between playing in a club tournament and playing against Belgium, Mexico and Japan. There are some distinct differences that we need to get across to them and prepare them as much possible in the short time we are training.”
One of the main differences is the high level of play from each team. In order to combat this, Stone will implement methods for the team members to expand their game.
“Usually when these players walk into the gym, they are the biggest and the best in the gym,” Stone said. “But now they are going to be playing with and against kids that are just as big and just as talented as they are. They need to add some diversity to their game and have a second shot if the first shot is not scoring. The demands are going to be higher, the competition is going to be higher and they are going to have to adjust to that.”
The U.S. roster competing in Thailand will have five veterans returning from the 2008 team which won gold at the NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship. The returnees include libero Jennifer Bonilla (Reseda Calif.), setter Carly Thomas (Swansea, Ill.), outside hitter Carly Wopat (Goleta, Calif.) and middle blockers Erica Denney (Centennial, Colo.) and Madelyn Hutson (Brentwood, Tenn.).
Bonilla was named the NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship’s Best Libero after achieving a tournament-leading 61.76 passing/receiving success percentage. Thomas captured the Best Setter award with a tournament-high 2.87 assists per set. Denney produced 30 points and ranked seventh in the tournament’s Best Server category. Wopat charted 38 points via 24 kills, eight blocks and six aces. Hutson contributed nine points during the tournament with eight kills and a block.
Joining the 2009 squad as newcomers will be setter Hannah Allison (Siloam Springs, Ark.), middle blockers Katherine Bell (Mesquite Texas) and Olivia Okoro (Carrolton, Texas), and opposite/outside hitters Haley Eckerman (Waterloo, Iowa), Andrea McHugh (Yorba Linda, Calif.), Katie Messing (The Woodlands, Texas) and Sam Wopat (Goleta, Calif.). Anna Dorn (Munster, Ind.) was originally named to the 12-player roster but withdrew due to injury.
Bonilla believes that if the team can come together, then they have a good chance at being successful.
“We have a new group of different faces, a lot of new girls,” Bonilla said. “We’re going to have a lot of time to train with each other and get to know each other and I think if we work hard enough and if we believe enough we’re going to be able to medal.”
Eckerman, a newcomer to the international scene, expects the two weeks of training to provide an opportunity to forge connections between teammates.
“Since we get two weeks of training beforehand, we’ll have a chance to make better team connections,” Eckerman said. “We’ll know how each person works, which is really important. You need a lot of team bonding.”
2009 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team
# - Name (Pos, Ht, Hometown, High School, Grad, Volleyball Club / Region)
1 - Hannah Allison (S, 5-11, Siloam Springs, Ark., Siloam Springs, 2010, Ozark Volleyball Academy / Delta)
2 - Katherine Bell (MB, 6-1, Mesquite, Texas, North Mesquite, 2011, Texas Assault / North Texas)
- Jennifer Bonilla (L, 5-9, Reseda, Calif., Marymount, 2010, Sports Shack / Southern California)
4 - Erica Denney (MB, 6-5, Centennial, Colo., Grandview, 2010, Front Range / Rocky Mountain)
5 - Haley Eckerman (OH, 6-3, Waterloo, Iowa, Waterloo East, 2011, Iowa Elite / Iowa)
6 - Anna Dorn* (MB, 6-4, Munster, Ind., Munster, 2010, Dunes / Hoosier)
8 - Andrea McHugh (OH, 5-10, Yorba Linda, Calif., El Dorado, 2010, Impact VBC / Southern California)
9 - Madelyn Hutson (MB, 6-6, Brentwood, Tenn., Ravenwood, 2011, Impact / Southern)
10 - Katie Messing (OH, 6-4, The Woodlands, Texas, The Woodlands High School, 2011, Asics Willowbrook / Lone Star Region)
13 - Olivia Okoro (MB, 6-0, Carrollton, Texas, Hebron, 2011, Dallas Skyline Juniors / North Texas)
16 - Carly Thomas (S, 5-11, Swansea, Ill., Althoff Catholic, 2010, Southwest Illinois VBC / Gateway)
18 - Samantha Wopat (OH, 6-1, Goleta, Calif., Dos Pueblos, 2010, Santa Barbara VBC / Southern California)
19 - Carly Wopat (OH, 6-2, Goleta, Calif., Dos Pueblos, 2010, Santa Barbara VBC / Southern California)
NOTE *: Katie Messing has replaced an injured Anna Dorn on the 12-player U.S. Girls' Youth National Team
Head Coach: Jim Stone
Assistant Coach: Melissa Wolter
Assistant Coach: Chuck Erbe
Team Leader/Manager: Heath Hoke
Doctor: Jodi Pelegrin
Team Statistics: Herb "Spike" Summers
2009 FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship drawing of lots:
Pool A: Thailand, Serbia, Egypt, Germany
Pool B: China, Turkey, Tunisia, Peru
Pool C: Brazil, Italy, Dominican Republic, Slovakia
Pool D: Japan, USA, Mexico, Belgium
Match schedule for the preliminaries:
Friday, July 3:
Pool A: Serbia vs. Germany, Egypt vs. Thailand
Pool B: Turkey vs. Tunisia, China vs. Peru
Pool C: Italy vs. Dominican Republic, Slovakia vs. Brazil
Pool D: USA vs. Mexico, Belgium vs. Japan
Saturday, July 4:
Pool A: Germany vs. Thailand, Serbia vs. Egypt
Pool B: Tunisia vs. Peru, Turkey vs. China
Pool C: Dominican Republic vs. Brazil, Italy vs. Slovakia
Pool D: Mexico vs. Japan, USA vs. Belgium
Sunday, July 5:
Pool A: Egypt vs. Germany, Thailand vs. Serbia
Pool B: China vs. Tunisia, Peru vs. Turkey
Pool C: Slovakia vs. Dominican Republic, Brazil vs. Italy
Pool D: Belgium vs. Mexico, Japan vs. USA