California Dreamin' III

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Lauren Carlini at USA Volleyball

Hey Badger fans!

Sorry about the delay, but these past few days have been crazy! This will be my last update about training with the U.S. National Team. I will also be answering some questions that fans asked on Twitter about training at the end of this article.

Last Monday began like any other, with a warm up and some ball control. The other half of the team had not returned from Switzerland yet, so it was another practice with a lot of playing and 6-on-6. 

I went into last week feeling even more comfortable with the system and playing such high level volleyball at all times. Tuesday, we had another practice and the players who had just returned from Switzerland had that day off. We did more playing and a good amount of out of system work. 

One part of a competitive drill that I really enjoyed included a "virus" or "mega-virus" ball. This was an insanely out of system ball that we had to chase down and try to put it in a good spot for someone to take a swing on. These drills were extremely challenging, but I think as we worked on them throughout the week, it got much cleaner and everyone felt more confident about the virus balls. To finish the day off we had a good lift, topped of with some interval biking, which is my favorite part of the workout. 

Wednesday, some of the girls who are going to participate in the Pan Am tournament this week returned to practice, so there were a few more bodies on the court. 

(Head coach) Kelly (Sheffield) decided to fly out to watch practice on Wednesday and a scrimmage on Thursday. We had lunch at Baja Fish Tacos (I highly recommend it!) and got back just in time for some yoga. I thought yoga was supposed to be relaxing but boy did she kick our butts that day. I think I was sorer from the yoga than I was from practice! 

Wednesday evening, I got invited to stay for two more weeks until June 21 to continue training with the team, but I decided I needed some time to make my decision. I will talk more about this in the end. 

Thursday was our scrimmage day so we got in the gym for only a few hours and got some serving/passing work in early. Since the college we were playing at was an hour away (without traffic), naturally we left at 1:30 p.m. for a 6 p.m. warm up time. Either way, we luckily beat traffic and decided to do some shopping and grab a bite to eat down the street. 

Before the scrimmage, I still felt a little nervous, but nothing compared to the last one where I was shaking in my boots! I played in two-of-four games and I felt so much more comfortable out there. I just told myself that there is no pressure and to go out and just play. I guess it worked, because my teams went undefeated! After signing some autographs and taking pictures with fans, we drove home and stopped for some In-N-Out Burger, ANIMAL STYLE! 

Friday, we had practice a little later than usual and though it wasn't USA's cleanest practice, we got some great work in, especially with out-of-system plays. We got one last lift in before the weekend and I said goodbye to everyone until next time. 

I finished off my California stay by going to an Angels vs. White Sox game Friday night with some of the players, where my White Sox got absolutely annihilated. But that's all right; it was still a great time! 

Saturday, I went to Newport Beach once again with Kristen Hahn and Chloe Ferrari, trying to get every bit of sun I could! I had a flight home early Sunday morning back to Chicago. 

I figured I should probably explain my decision to opt out of two more weeks of training before I get into the Q&A. Ultimately, I came into the USA gym knowing that I was not going to get any playing time in international competition, which I was completely okay with. I understand that the setter position, especially at this level is extremely difficult to simply jump right in to. 

My original invite was for three weeks and after those three weeks, the plan was to have a meeting and see where I stood. I came in wanting to see what type of system they were trying to run and "get my toes wet". This was a complete learning experience for me and I loved every minute of it. 

It is hard getting your butt kicked everyday in such a high level environment and if you can't handle it, it will wear on you very quickly. So I did my best to stay positive, knowing that this was my time to observe and measure up where I'm currently at to where I want and need to be for future visits. By the end of this I wanted to have a good grasp of what USA volleyball was all about, and what they were trying to do with the new system of volleyball they were running. I also wanted to be able to say I have learned what I needed to learn and I've shown everyone what I can do. 

I felt comfortable saying these things truthfully by the end of last week and with my fair performance in the scrimmage, I believed that was the way to go out - on a good, high note. I hope to be back in the USA gym next summer, but nothing is a guarantee. 

Nonetheless, I missed my team and Wisconsin more than I can say in words. It's very hard being away from my teammates whom i've grown to be great friends with and spend almost every waking moment together throughout the year! This experience just made me value them even more. 

I can't wait to get back in the gym next week with those ladies and bring what I learned back with me, and possibly incorporate some new parts of our game. Lastly I want to thank everyone for supporting me and following me throughout these past few weeks!

Lauren

Q&A

 @SavannahMlynn What advice do you have for younger girls that want to go to a big college like Wisconsin for volleyball?

I think a good start is to find a club to play at. Once you find a club and start playing competitive volleyball, your skills will progress and it makes it easier because everyone around you has similar goals. Putting in extra time and hard work is always a good thing. No one has ever said "I put too much time in the gym this week" because there is always something you can get better at or work on. So I'd say, put in the time, put in good work, and be committed to your goals. 

@fringfurter Who was her favorite hitting option at USA training and why?!

Great question! Well do not get me wrong, I loved setting a lot of people in that gym, and it might be my SPVB bias talking, but I loved setting Kelly Murphy. With such a fast system, it was easier for me to set a lefty on the right side because it was fairly easy for her to take the ball out of the air and fast! 

@jonariasradio How does she feel it made her better as a player?

I think I improved as a player in a few ways. The biggest part that I think will help me is the fact that since the system and play was so fast, when I get back to school, it will almost seem a bit slow, and I think as a team we can go faster. USA opened my eyes to a few more things as well. Little things like watching blocking tendencies, blocking matchups, and defensive tactics. These will only expand my game as I enter my second year of college. 

@BlingSing‬ What was the biggest surprise? Your proudest moment? Also: Your WIVB bio says Glass is your favorite VB player. What was it like to play with her?‬‬

I think the biggest surprise was how physical and fast the game can be played.  I had heard about how fast the offense was ran but I was definitely not expecting this! When Kelly tweeted that the ball does not go above the antenna, he was not lying!

My proudest moment was after the scrimmage, when I was just feeling very good about my performance and Karch came up and said I was the best setter out there that night. That really put the icing on the cake. 

Alisha was not practicing very much during my stay, but she would do position work with us. It was super helpful watching her set because she was a great example of what they want your hands and body position to look like. So, watching her set and seeing how deceptive she is, really helped me.

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