IOWA CITY, Iowa — Four University of Iowa volleyball players — Kelsey O’Neill, Halle Johnston, Brie Orr, and Reghan Coyle — attended tryouts for the U.S. Women’s National Team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on March 2-4.
This was the first time Johnston attended the tryouts that included 240 volleyball players from around the nation. Although unsure of what to expect at first, she quickly settled in.
“There were a lot of talented players that I wasn’t used to playing with, so it took time to adjust to new people around me,” said Johnston. “I was expecting a strict environment where perfection is expected, but instead it was a laid back scene and the coaches just wanted you to be you, play, and have fun.”
The other three Hawkeyes have participated in the tryouts before. Although the nerves were still present, the experiences from years past helped.
“I was more confidence this year and broke out of my shell when it came to communicating on the court,” said Orr. “Since we are playing with people we’ve never played with before, it’s very important to communicate as much as we can throughout the rally. Especially before and after every point.”
Any nerves were pushed aside on Friday, and as the weekend went on, the Hawkeyes settled in and relied on their skills on the court.
“Like past tryouts, I became more relaxed as the sessions went on,” said O’Neill. “It is hard to go into the weekend nerve-free, so I was a bit anxious going into my first session. The nerves start to fade away as you get into the routine of playing again. My focus shifted from my nerves to how I can play volleyball to the best of my ability.”
Once the emotions settled down and they were able to rely on their volleyball skills, the four players let the level of competition drive their performances.
“The level of competition at this tryout is second to none, and it drives you to be the best player you can be,” said Coyle. “As a result, I knew that every rep was important and my goal was to always be better on the next ball. This helped drive my focus throughout the duration of the tryout.”
“With everyone around you playing at such a high level, you automatically want to play your best,” added O’Neill. “You know that everyone there is vying for the same few spots you are so you are naturally driven to play your best volleyball.”
Throughout the weekend of competing with other top-tier athletes from around the country, the Hawkeyes learned more about themselves, as well as more about the sport they love.
“The biggest thing I took away from this weekend is the need for consistency,” said Orr. “Playing steady and at a good level over time is better than having small stretches of great play and poor play.”
Now, the players plan to take what they learned and apply it towards next season.
“Every athlete there has their own strengths,” said Johnston. “I was able to learn new things while observing other players, so now I’ll take the new skills I’ve learned, such as communication and effort, and bring them back to Iowa to benefit our team.”