By Dan Hiner
From Feb. 20-22, Youngstown State University volleyball player Val Jeffery tried out for the United States Women’s National Team.
Jeffery and YSU head coach Mark Hardaway traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado to join approximately 240 other hopefuls in an attempt to make the national roster.
Jeffery had a breakout season for the Penguins in 2014. She finished the season with her 1099 assists — the second most by a Penguin since 2007.
The tryouts were streamed live during the weekend and coaches and players around the country had an opportunity to view the players. Jeffery had an opportunity to compete against some of the top talent in the nation.
“I think I did well,” she said. “It was really incredible to see how many good setters there were out there. For some reason when I play against really good athletes, for some reason I look at them and I see what they can accomplish and I immediately mimic it. It was really fun just competing with them. I thought I matched up well with them — maybe I didn’t jump as high as them or as strong as them, but I thought overall I represented YSU as best I could.”
Hardaway said that playing on the national stage would be good for not just Jeffery, but for the program overall.
“Even if she had to miss some of our training, the experience and the training and the level of play that she would get to experience would wash out the negatives. I think going here is going to make her better — it shows her where the top kids are,” he said. “We also did it for her confidence. We do think she’s good. There are times were she doubts how good she is, but she is very driven. She wants to be good and I really felt like it would be a good experience for her and it would make the program better in the long run.”
Hardaway selected Jeffery to go to the national tryouts. Hardaway said it was a positive experience for his young setter.
“We thought that she was good enough that when she went out there she would be able to hold her own,” Hardaway said. “As a setter you might be able to get away with not being as big or as physical depending on how good you are. But part of that process is that people know you and since no one knows her it is an uphill battle. That was the reason for going out there this year. It was to go out and see if she could hold her own and next year go out and really push to see if we could get her on one of those teams.”
The official rosters could be released during the beginning of March. The 240 players that tried out have the opportunity to join four different teams. The national team will select the top players and the others will join one of the other three rosters that will play in international tournaments.
“They said they would send out invitations in order of the teams. If you made the national team, those invitations would be sent out in the beginning of March,” Jeffery said. “The one going to South Korea, China, and finally the last one, going to New Orleans, they will send out the invitations in that order. If you make the bottom team, which I think they will take 36 athletes, they’ll send out an invitation at the end of March.”