By Anna Kayser
Four volleyball players will be representing the Black and Gold at U.S. Women’s National Team tryouts in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from March 2-4.
Setter Brie Orr, right-side hitter Reghan Coyle, and defensive specialist Halle Johnston will compete with almost 240 athletes from around the country, fighting for spots in the national college programs. Spots are open for both the domestic and international teams.
Middle blocker Kelsey O’Neill will try out for a spot on the national training team.
For O’Neill, who played in her senior season with the Hawkeyes after transferring from Pittsburgh, the tryouts are an opportunity to continue her volleyball career.
“I want to play overseas, and I know there will be a lot of opportunities to talk to people [at the tryouts] and kind of network a little bit, so I can have an opportunity to play in the fall,” O’Neill said.
Although her college career finished in the fall when Iowa failed to make the cut for the NCAA Tournament, O’Neill said she feels just as ready as her former teammates, who have been training since the season ended.
Orr, who started in all 33 games during the 2017 season, will attend the tryouts as she enters her second spring season as a Hawkeye.
While the majority of Orr’s learning curve came last spring and during the regular season, the experience she gains from competing with and against some of the top athletes in the nation can help push her playmaking skills into next season, making her entire team better.
Iowa plays in one of the toughest volleyball conferences in the nation, and a look outside of that can broaden the scope for the freshman.
“[The tryouts] are just another chance to get better and just see what’s happening other than the Big Ten and compete with them, since we don’t get to during the regular season,” Orr said.
Coyle went to the tryouts last season, and one of her goals for this time around is to work on her leadership skills.
A big part of the 2017 Iowa team and heading into her senior season, Coyle could have a big effect on the communication of the 2018 Hawkeyes. With the loss of senior libero Annika Olsen — a big leader for the squad — different returning players will have to step up.
“I’m hoping to be more of a vocal leader just because it’s my second time there, and as a senior, this year, that’ll be important on the court,” Coyle said. “I’m hoping to just get a little more confident in myself.”
For the freshman Johnston, who will competing for the libero spot for next season’s team, getting a chance to play with older college players will be beneficial.
“What I’m most looking forward to is meeting new people and training with great athletes and coaches,” she said. “I’m just excited to be there in general.”
Looking forward to the fall season, having three returning Hawkeyes at the national event will bring a new veteran level to the team.
In both individual and team benefits for an athlete going to the tryouts, Iowa is looking to use the experience to better the squad in 2018.
“The individual player obviously gets to test and push themselves against the best players in the country, but collectively for the four of them to go together really creates a cool team bonding opportunity for that nucleus,” head coach Bond Shymansky said. “It gives them a chance to a little bit of self-evaluation but also help each other through a kind of challenging situation.”