Follow Yeager Through the USA High Performance Championships

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Editor’s note: Follow along with sophomore Bethany Yeager as she competes with the USA Women’s Junior A2 Program. Yeager’s team will compete in the International Junior Division of the USA High Performance Championships in Tucson, Ariz., July 26-29. Yeager will blog about the experience right here on July 29
Day 10, bronze medal winners! Our first match was the semifinals against the Youth National team at 12:15. We performed our usual routine of breakfast and then headed to the convention center. We suffered a tough loss in three, but quickly bounced back. We hustled to get lunch at Bruegger’s Bagels before the bronze medal match at 4:00. We played the USA Youth Red team, who we had lost to twice previously. We beat them in three and won the bronze medal!

After the match, the team went to Olive Garden together to celebrate before going back to the convention center to watch the boys’ finals. We didn’t actually watch too much of the game though because we sat with the China team. We got to sit and communicate with them for about two hours. We traded jerseys, money, and anything we could find. It was such an incredible experience! When the boys’ match was over, we had a medal ceremony for the boys and girls. We all got our medals and then took pictures together. When we were done taking pictures, we said our final goodbyes before we left the following day.

I had an amazing experience with USA volleyball and I’m so thankful I got to represent our country on the court. My teammates and I shared a passion for the game and we had a blast together on and off the court. I learned so much from my coaches and I’m so thankful I got to play for them. Time to get back to Iowa City and get to the real work! I can’t wait to start preseason next week with my team, I miss them so much! Thanks for reading my blog, now come out and support Hawkeye Volleyball! Go Hawks!

July 28
Day 9, on to the semifinals! Our first match was at 10:15, so we had breakfast at 8:30 then walked over to the convention center. Our first match was against the USA Youth Red team. We lost to them in four, but we didn’t play our best. We hustled to get Bruegger’s Bagels for lunch before our next match at 2 p.m. We played the USA White team and beat them in four! We played really well and our win got us in to the semifinal match! After the match, we watched our Chinese friends play for a little bit then headed back to the hotel. We showered and then went out dinner for our last night together. After dinner, we went back to the convention center to watch the USA boys play each other. We headed back to the hotel to get a good night of sleep to get ready for the semifinal match against the Youth National team. I cannot believe it is already going to be my last day here. I have had an absolute blast and I can’t wait to play the final day! Let’s go USA!

July 27
Day 8, WINNERS! We had breakfast at 9 a.m. and then had some time to relax before we headed to the gym for our first match at 12:15. We walked to the gym at 11 a.m. and started warming up. First up, the USA continental team. We lost the first game, but dominated the next three games. We played great after that first game and got a lot accomplished as a team! Then we had time to relax because our next game was not until 5:45. We watched some of the USA boys and girls teams to pass the time.

Finally it was time to play again! Next up, China! We made friends with the China girls a few nights ago so we warmed up with them before our match. We taught them some of our dance moves and played games with them. It was so much fun! Then we went our separate ways and started one long match. We won the first set, lost the second and third sets, and then won the fourth and fifth sets! We won 16-14 in the fifth set! It was such an intense match and we played so well! We play tomorrow at 10:15 against USA youth red! Cannot wait to play again! It was great to have Coach Jason Allen at my court today! 🙂 Miss my Hawkeyes!

July 26
Day 7, competition finally starts! We ate breakfast at 8 a.m. at the hotel then hung out together for a few hours since our first match wasn’t until 2 p.m. We had lunch at noon and then headed over to the convention center to get ready for our first match. We watched some of our friends play and then we finally started warming up. We were so excited! We played Dominican Republic first. We lost the first game and then won the next three! First match, first win!

Then we had Jimmy John’s and watched one of the USA boy’s teams play until our next match at 5:45. We played against another one of our USA teams and lost in three, but the loss actually helps us for seeding. We need to win from here on out! We played well as a team, we just have a few things to work on. It was so much fun getting to play! Cannot wait to get back at it tomorrow! We play at noon and then at 5:45 p.m.! I got to see Sharon, Jason, and my mommy today! I was so happy to see all of them! I’m so thankful that they have all made the time to come watch me play. Thank y’all so much! LET’S GO USA!

July 25
Day 6 was a slight break! We had an early breakfast then went over to the convention center to do our jump testing and shuttle runs. We got a few extra reps in and then called it a day so we could rest for competition the following day.

We headed back to our hotel and relaxed until lunch time. We all ate lunch together and then went back to our rooms to get ready for the opening ceremony. We went to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and then headed to the convention center for the ceremony. We walked across the center court as a team underneath the spotlight. Then all of the teams and spectators joined to watch the ceremony. The USA men’s 2008 Olympic gold medalist libero, Richard Lambourne, spoke to us. He was an awesome speaker and talked to us about our roles as individuals on our teams.

After that some of the Apache Indians performed hoop dancing and a rain dance. It was so entertaining! After the ceremony, we all got a picture with Richard. Then we walked back to the hotel to get some rest for the big day! We were so excited! First up Dominican Republic, then USA Youth Red! Let’s go USA! And my mom arrives in Arizona as well, cannot wait to see her! Cannot wait to see Coach Jason Allen either! 🙂

July 24
Day 5 was a little lighter seeing that we are nearing competition! We woke up for an early breakfast at 7:30 and then walked over to the convention center for practice. For warm-up we played a game called bloody knuckles (we call it volley hockey in Iowa). It is basically playing volleyball by hitting it on the ground. We had a blast playing it! We got to scrimmage another one of the USA teams and we played really well! We beat them in five games and got much better as a team. We have made so much progress over the past five days. We cannot wait to start tournament play!

The best part about my morning though was seeing Hawkeye head coach Sharon Dingman at my practice! It means so much to me that Sharon travelled all the way to Arizona to watch me play. My Hawkeye teammates and I are so blessed to have a coach that cares so much about her players! I got to see her after practice and talk to her for a little bit. It was so nice to have a familiar face around and see black and gold on the sidelines!

Afterwards, three of my teammates and I went to a church nearby. God really blessed me by putting me on a team with other girls that are Christians. We went to church and made it back in time for lunch at the hotel. After lunch, we were all really hyper so everyone came to our room and we ended up having a dance party. We made videos in the hallway and had a great time together. We were fortunate to have the night off so we all had dinner together. We then had a team meeting discussing our plans for the tournament.

After our team meeting, a former player of the USA National Team, Tracy Stalls, held a bible study for anyone that wanted to come. A few of my teammates and I went and heard Tracy speak. She is so passionate about God and her message was really uplifting. She really inspired me and it was amazing to hear how God has worked in her life on and off the court.

We then headed over to the convention center to watch China play another one of the USA teams. When the match was over, we played bloody knuckles (volley hockey) with some of the USA boys. Then some of the Chinese girls and Chilean boys joined us. It was an incredible experience! We got to interact with all of them and use the little Spanish/Chinese that we knew! We took lots of pictures with them and had a wonderful time playing with them. Our curfew was 10 p.m. so we had to hurry back to the hotel so we would not get in trouble. Day 5 was probably my favorite day so far! It made me realize how blessed I am!

July 23
Day 4 we got up early for breakfast, but ended up having our practice time pushed back. We went back up to our rooms and relaxed for about an hour and then had practice from 10:45-1:15. We played washed drills with one of the youth teams all morning. After practice we had to hustle back before the cafeteria closed for lunch. We had hamburgers and pasta. After lunch, we came to our rooms to have our usual downtime until practice. We all got much needed rest and were ready for the night session.

We scrimmaged the top youth team and split with them. We made a lot of progress from the morning session to the night session so the coaches were pleased with our hard work. After practice we walked back to the hotel and had grilled chicken for dinner! We had quite an eventful dinner! Our coaches even joined in on the fun in our team meeting. Our team has a blast together, makes me miss my Hawkeye team! Can’t wait to get back on the court tomorrow!

July 22
On day 2 the real work began! After a long, much-needed night of sleep we had breakfast at 8:30 and then practice from 10:00-12:30. We had French toast sticks for breakfast, which made me think of my Hawkeye teammates (especially Grace Burns). After our delicious breakfast, we headed over to the convention center for practice. Luckily it’s not too far, only about a three minute walk. We practice with one of the other USA teams here to get in good competition. Practice went well and we got in a lot of position work. All of the practices are intense and lots of hard work. I absolutely love it! After our first practice, we headed back to our hotel for lunch. We had tacos and a Mexican themed lunch. I had a churro for the first time in my life and it wasn’t too bad!

After lunch we had about three hours to relax and hang out with the team until our next practice. My teammates and I hung out and then we all took naps. Our next practice was from 5:30-8:00. We finally got to play actual 6-on-6 and it was so much fun! Our team gets along really well so it’s a blast playing together. Practice was intense once again! Then we came back for dinner and ate pasta, yum! The best part about dinner though was the brownies! The boys teams eat so much food so we girls have to fight to get our food! They weren’t too happy with us when we took all of the brownies.

The Chilean boys team was at dinner with us and it was so interesting to watch them interact! Tomorrow night we get to play the Chilean girls team for practice and we are so excited! After dinner the team hung out and played games before our meeting. Then we had a team meeting and discussed team statistics. I hope my Hawkeye teammates are doing well, I miss y’all!

July 20
Day 1 was quite a long day with the time change! I flew out of Cedar Rapids at 8:30 in the morning and had a layover in Chicago. Then I flew from Chicago to Tucson, Arizona — but, we didn’t quite make it all the way to Tucson! We had to make a quick stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico because we ran out of fuel! It was pretty scary! But after an hour on the ground in Albuquerque we finally got to Tucson. There were about 10 other players on the flight so we were in it together. When I got to the airport I saw a couple girls I knew so that was a relief! Then about 60 of us piled onto a charter bus and went to our hotel.

We arrived at the hotel around 2:30 and had to wait until 6 p.m. for dinner. I met my two roommates and hung out with them until it was time for dinner. When we all got to our room we were a little confused because there was one king size bed and three of us…were we really going to have to squeeze into one bed together? But, thankfully we got a rollaway bed and we are going to switch out on it every night. One of my roommates is from Florida and she is a setter. The other one is from Pennsylvania and she is a middle blocker. I really like both of them and we get along well!

When it was finally time for dinner we had Christmas in July! We got all of our gear and training stuff! Then we ate dinner downstairs in a cafeteria where we will be eating all of our meals. The food is delicious! After dinner we headed over to the convention center for our first practice! We jumped right into it! My coaches are Todd Dagenais and Shelbylynn McBride. Todd is the head coach at Central Florida and Shelbylynn is an assistant at Virginia Tech. They are both passionate about the game and they are great coaches. We had an intense first practice and got a feel for our teammates. My teammates are really cool and I love playing with them! After practice we had a team meeting to go over all of the rules and what the coaches want from us. Todd is so passionate about playing for the USA and absolutely loves volleyball! He is so inspirational! After our meeting, we came back and went straight to bed since we were all tired with the time changes.

Back at it tomorrow!