By Corbin McGuire
There’s watching high-level volleyball on TV, and then there’s what K-State’s Brynn Carlson, Gloria Mutiri and Teana Adams-Kaonohi experienced a few weeks ago in California.
The trio of Wildcats, as part of being selected to the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team-Anaheim roster, did more than train at the official host city for the men’s and women’s national teams from June 23-29.
Before each practice, they watched the women’s national team practice. Then, with the 25 other collegiate players there, they repeated the exact practice schedule. They did this for a week.
“It was really good watching them play, learning how they work with their systems and putting what we just watched onto the court and playing it out,” Adams-Kaonohi said. “We were trying to mimic their style of play.”
At first, Mutiri was trying to stifle her inner fangirl. A volleyball junkie, K-State’s sophomore opposite said she has idolized these players for years. She knows their hometowns and where they played at in college.
“So, it was really crazy to walk around the gym as them, stand in line to get water at the same line as them,” she said, laughing. “My favorite player is Karsta Lowe. She’s with the Pan Am team, and she was also there. I was really geeking. Everyone was, like, ‘Just go say hi to her,’ and I was, like, ‘No, I can’t do that. I would probably cry,’ because she’s really good.
“That was really cool to see that we were in the same gym as these people. They went and just won VNL, so that’s pretty cool,” Mutiri added, referring to an international tournament with 16 countries. “I like how we would watch for a long time and also try put a lot of that into play and see where the differences are, areas you need to work on.”
All three Wildcats, who play different positions, varied in where they improved the most.
Carlson, a redshirt sophomore outside hitter, said her passing in the back row took the biggest jump. Adams-Kaonohi, an incoming freshman from Honolulu, Hawaii, pointed to her leadership as a setter. Mutiri, who received AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors last season, said she developed significantly as a blocker.
There was one area all three named in common: Tempo.
“We focused a lot on running at USA tempo and USA speed, and thankfully for us we play in that same system,” Carlson said. “It was really good to continue to work on pushing tempo and pace, especially in hitting rhythm because that’s something we’ve been working on.”
After several days filled with watching the national team practice and mimicking that practice multiple times, the last day included an intrasquad scrimmage. Carlson, whose blue team won, said it was a fitting end to the experience. Adams-Kaonohi said it was her favorite part of the whole week.
“It was a good experience because we all got to put on that USA jersey, so it really felt like we were part of the program,” she said. “Since we were working for a whole week, working really hard, putting in all the effort, it just felt good being part of that program and playing for USA.”
The experience also added to what has been a valuable summer for K-State. The entire team, with 13 underclassmen to only three upperclassmen, returned from a nine-day tour of Brazil on June 6.
For Carlson, Mutiri and Adams-Kaonohi, their trip to Anaheim a few weeks later offered another chance to play high-level volleyball at a time when they usually would be training voluntarily and without coaches.
Anna Dixon, a freshman outside hitter, has been receiving the same benefit, just somewhere else. As one of 20 players selected to USA Volleyball’s 2019 Women’s Junior National Training Team, she’s been in Colorado Springs, Colorado, since July 5. On Thursday, the Louisburg native was announced as part of the 12-player roster that will participate in the 2019 FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship, which starts on Friday in Mexico.
“I think it’s important. Whatever opportunity you can be in to grow, do that,” Mutiri said of the USA Volleyball experiences. “I think that, since we’re all really young, we have a high rate of learning, so we can process information really fast and implement it really quickly. I think that’ll be really good for us to start building really good habits by going to stuff like Anaheim and Colorado, just getting a little bit better at the skills we need to work on.”
“I think it’s the most valuable thing we could be doing for this team. It’s really going to allow us to slow the game down here,” Carlson added. “That’s invaluable when it comes to team chemistry and being able to come back without having any of that drag or that lull from not practicing with a coach. It’s really showed. There wasn’t really any rust (at open gyms). We came back and flowed really well right away together, which I think is a really good sign for the season.
“If we can just continue with that type of trajectory, once we get to two-a-days it’s going to be really, really good, and we’re just going to be clicking on all cylinders.”
Source: Kansas State Sports