Freshman libero Alyssa Warren just returned from the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Check out her account of National Team tryouts below!
Thursday, Feb. 24
This day was a long day. Mutt (Meghan Matusiak) and I had a flight to Chicago, which was bittersweet because that is our home. We were excited to be there but even more excited to get to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Our flight got delayed for about a half an hour, but we finally made it. We awkwardly found the OTC driver and she escorted us to the OTC bus. We were ecstatic to see the facility because we had no idea what to expect. When we got there, we were amazed. We walked into the main building and immediately started taking pictures. We checked in and found our dorm room. We were fortunate to be roomed together because they did it by school and we got lucky because our room had two queen size beds in it. We had a television, refrigerator, sink and closet area. We threw our stuff down and jumped on the beds. They were so comfortable. We stayed up a little to get used to the two hour time change, but then passed out.
Friday, Feb. 25
We woke up about 9:00 a.m., with no alarm. It was nice to wake up refreshed. We were excited to see the facility in daylight. We went to breakfast and it was unbelievable. I felt like a celebrity because we had to scan our ID to get in. The cafeteria had awesome food. It was very healthy and athlete friendly. They had different stations: recovery, fruit, vegetable, protein, carbohydrate and drinks. We ate our food and then went and wandered. It was so cool to see how massive the place was. We walked through the main walkway which had flags and cutouts of every sport. We then returned to our dorm and got ready for the first session. We got to the gym and it had four courts set up. We started peppering and then went straight into playing. They split us by position and mixed us together. We did a wave through scrimmaging drill for two hours. The different positions switched off serving, except for liberos because they don't serve at the international level. It was nice to be playing with such top-level athletes. Everyone is competitive and works as hard as you do. Mutt and I were in the same group because she switched and we were on the same court. We got to play together a couple of times. I saw many familiar faces and friends from club, high school, and high performance last year. We saw some BIG EAST players as well. When we finished, we went to dinner and then hung out until 5:50 for our general meeting. The coaches introduced themselves and talked for a little bit about the tryout. It was so cool to see the head coach Hugh McCutcheon and Karch Kiraly who was an Olympic gold medalist and awesome sand volleyball player. Karch came up to me during the session and gave me coaching, too. There were so many girls trying out it was amazing. After we were done we went to eat again. Michael Phelps walked in and I did not even recognize him. I can't even tell you how exciting it felt to be training at the same facility as professional athletes. We left dinner and hung out until we slept. Mutt and I both didn't feel we performed our absolute best but it was the first day to get used to things.
Saturday, Feb. 26
This day was probably my favorite day. We woke up at 6:50 a.m. and got ready. We went to breakfast and went to the gym to warm up for our first session of the day. We then did serving for about an hour. They broke down the jump float serve into parts for us to learn. We would try out each part for about eight minutes and the coaches would help us if they saw anything wrong. Karch Kiraly again helped me with my serve. Then the outsides and liberos split off to do serve receive. They broke it down into parts just like serving. After this, everyone mixed and we did serve and passing. It was tough because so many people had different kinds of serves and some were extremely good. The coaches "statted" us while we passed and then we finished for that session. Mutt and I then proceeded to go to the gift shop. We continued along the path with all of the flags and cutouts of sports. We saw some different sports that we hadn't seen the first day. Of course, we took pictures. When we got to the building with the store, we received a small surprise: the Hall of Fame was in the same building! They showed the history of the Olympics and had pictures and statues of many different memories. What I found most interesting was the history part. I spotted a hockey jersey and had a feeling it was what I thought it was. It was from the Olympics in Lake Placid, when the U.S. men's team beat the Soviets. If you have ever seen the movie Miracle you know exactly what I am talking about. That is one of my favorite movies so seeing the actual jersey really pumped me up. Then we went to the store and bought some gear. It was expensive but worth it and we even got a discount because we were part of the volleyball tryout. We left and went to lunch where we continued eating the delicious food. We saw Michael Phelps again, he had his hood on to hide. We went back to our dorm and took a nap. I then woke up because the Junior National group had a session at 2:30. We warmed up, then they split us into groups. The liberos passed to the setters and the hitters hit against a block. We then were separated into teams and played games where your team got three serves and three receives. We kept playing for 15 points. We continued this for 90 minutes, switching between three and six serves/receives. It was unbelievable playing against and with people I know. I played against the freshman outsides from Louisville and Notre Dame. The one from Notre Dame was the freshman player of the year, so it was cool seeing her again. I played with the huge outside from Wisconsin and one from Cal. It was nice to be on teams with high-level athletes, the competition was beyond belief. I feel as a libero I didn't do much because not a lot of balls were served at me or hit, so when I made a mistake it was frustrating because I didn't get many opportunities. But I think that session was the most fun. I then had to go to a meeting after the session was over to discuss the process of how the Junior National Team and A2 programs worked. There is a National team, two Senior A2 teams, a Junior National team, two Junior A2 teams and a continental group. So there are plenty of teams to try to make and they will all be good. They told us how some Olympic players now were cut from these teams and look where they are now. After this meeting I went to dinner and returned to the dorm. Mutt had a later session so I skyped with Kelly Palma and Samatha Massei from Seton Hall. It was nice to talk to my friends here and see what was going on. Then I met Mutt for food again and we went back to the dorm, showered, and waited for them to put up our session time for Sunday morning.
Sunday, Feb. 27
This was the last day of the tryouts. We woke up at 6:50 a.m. again and went to breakfast. I think the elevation was getting to us because we both felt nauseous in the morning. We felt better after we got some food in us. We headed to the gym and prepared for the mini-tournament we were going to play in. They separated us into teams of about nine. All of the Junior National girls were put on the same teams. My team had two freshman from Louisville: Emily Juhl and Caitlin Wickes. It was weird being on a team with them, but really cool because they are good players. I also had girls from Missouri, Iowa, Clemson and Texas. It was odd because a couple of the girls looked familiar to me but I couldn't pinpoint where I knew them from. We figured out that we had gone to a camp together. One girl asked me if I knew Rose who went to Seton Hall. What a small world. The tournament went very well. I played the best I had all tryout and my team went undefeated. We played against Mutt's team and my friend Ali's team from Western Michigan. It was a great feeling to be successful against those players. After the session we went and packed all of our things, ate lunch and proceeded to take the shuttle to the airport. We had a 40 minute connecting flight to Denver, then back to Seton Hall it was.
Overall I am extremely happy that I went on that trip and tried out. I am anxious to see the results, but if I don't make the team I am not going to give up and I know that the experience was worth the time and effort. It was exhausting, but it gave me a renewed spirit and attitude that will carry over to my season here at Seton Hall. Just to be at the facility where Olympic athletes train was amazing in itself. This is one of the top five best experiences of my life and I will never forget it. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go and I hope to return next year and do it all over again!
To see a video chronicle of Alyssa's time in Colorado, click here.