Gopher middle blocker Tori Dixon is competing with the U.S. Women's National A2 Team Program in Columbus, Ohio. Training began June 26 at Ohio Dominican University, while the matches will be held June 30 to July 4 during the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships (GJNC) at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Follow Dixon's experience as she blogs about it on gophersports.com.
July 5th, 2012
After taking second place in the tournament, we wrapped up everything. We met with USA Volleyball directors and coordinators, went over the move-out process, and headed back to the dorms. One of my friends, Amy Scullion, whom I used to play in the USA Pipeline program with (USA Select Team, USA Youth National Team), now plays basketball for Ohio State University. I met up with her, and Molly Kreklow, whom I played club volleyball at Northern Lights with my whole life, and USA Volleyball pipeline as well, and we went and had dinner together. It was fun being able to see all your old teammates, and being able to catch up with them. Nothing really has changed that much since then!
After getting back to the dorms, I said goodbye to a lot of the teammates I played with at this tournament, and said goodbye to the coaches, as well. That is one of the hardest things about going to these camps, pipelines, and teams.You have to leave the people you developed such a good connection with, without a promise of ever seeing them again. Everyone lives on opposite sides of the country, and it is going to be hard not being able to see them everyday, like you got used to doing while here. But, I am so happy I met these awesome people. Everyone has a passion for volleyball, and it's really an honor getting to play with all of these individuals. Everyone wants to be good, and everyone wants to win. It's fun being in that kind of enviroment. Everyone is competitive with, but so supportive of one another. I'm sure I'll be hearing about and seeing all of these people in the future, and down the road as our volleyball careers progress.
Overall, it was a great trip. Thank you to the USA Volleyball staff and coaches, Ohio Dominican staff and coaches, and my USA Volleyball teammates for making this a truly memorable trip. I learned a ton and experienced a very high level of volleyball while down here. It was a real eye-opener of many different things including my goals, what it will take to go to the 'next-level', and it gave me an insight to what the USA Volleyball gym will look like in the future. I can't wait to come back and share my experiences with my Gopher teammates, and hopefully make an impact in their outlooks, as well. My departure from Ohio is bittersweet. I am sad to leave these amazing people and program but I'm excited to get back to Minnesota to continue training for an entire different entity! I fly back to Minneapolis this morning, and will continue summer workouts tomorrow morning at 6:30 A.M!
Welcome back to Minnesota! GO GOPHERS!
July 4th, 2012
Happy July 4th!
The tournament just wrapped up today, and I'm done with my time here with the USA Women's National A2 Training. My team, USA Gold, took second place in the tournament. Yesterday, July 3rd, we played the first round of bracket play against USA Red. It was pretty competitive, and an interesting match for me because I played against former club teammates and friends who were a part of USA White. It was by far the most competitive and closest game that happened in Columbus. It was a ton of fun, and everyone on our team was going crazy.
We won that game in five extremely close sets (25-27, 25-19, 18-25, 25-21, 18-16). We obviously just like to make things interesting. It was a very hard fought match, and everyone, including myself, was very happy about how our team competed and responded to being pushed, and how we handled the pressure. It was a very exciting match, and I was pumped that we came out on top, which put us into the championship game today, on July 4th. After the match, we stayed to watch the first two sets of the USA Blue vs. USA Red match. After that, we were going to go to the Red, White, and Boom festival in downtown Columbus, but our coaches heard rumors that there were going to be over 500,000 people in the streets that night, and decided it wasn't a good idea. We got Dairy Queen instead, and went to bed.
Today, we did not have such a lucky route. We had practice in the morning, and then our match later in the afternoon. We ended up losing to USA White 3-0. We never really found a rhythm to things, and there were a lot of errors on our part. We could have played a lot better than we did, but overall, I was happy with my team's progress. We came far from the first day of competition, and really improved a lot. In the third set against USA White, I played outside hitter, instead of opposite. It was fun getting to try something a little different, and get the feel for the flow of being an outside hitter. More to come soon!
July 2nd, 2012
After today, we have ended pool play between the four teams. The standings are in order (1st-4th): USA Blue, Gold, Red, White. We have completed three days of playing, and it has been a lot of fun. I have been seeing a lot of familiar faces at the convention center including Ms. Laura Bush
, former club coaches, former club teammates, incoming players Karyn and Palmer, and many more people who have impacted my volleyball career. It is always good seeing people you know, especially at such a large tournament.
Our first match against USA Blue was a good first game. We lost 1-2 in sets. It was our very first match playing as a team, and it went pretty well. We were still working out some kinks, and it was good for us to expose those areas of weakness earlier rather than later, so we have time to make necessary changes before our bracket and championship play begins. After our match, we went to the outdoor mall here in Columbus, and went SHOPPING! It was good to finally get out of the dorms.
We came back the next day and played USA White, which went very well. Everyone played equally, and we ended up sweeping them 3-0. We began to get into the groove of things, and we showed everyone that we could make the necessary changes to win the tournament. After all of the games, we went and saw the movie Magic Mike, which I highly recommend. :)
Today we played USA Red, which also went pretty well. We ended up winning 2-1. The first game went well, followed by a not-so-hot game. But, our team was able to collect ourselves to come back and win the third set, which is hard to do when you're down. I was happy with our teams response to losing the second set, and how we came back in the third.
Tomorrow we have bracket play where the first and fourth teams play each other, and the second and third teams play each other. Us, USA Gold will play USA Red at 5:30 P.M.
, and USA Blue will play USA White following our match.
Everything has been such a good experience, and I love training as an opposite hitter. It is a position that requires the all-around game, and it's been fun adapting and learning in these new situations and these new environments. I can't wait to start bracket play. GO GOLD!
June 29th, 2012
This morning, I found out I am officially a part of Team USA GOLD! Our coaches say gold stands for gold medal once we win the tournament ;)
2012 U.S. Women's National A2 Volleyball Program
Gold Team (College, Position, Height, College Eligibility Left, Hometown)
3 - Mary Pollmiller (University of Tennessee, S, 5-10, 3, Littleton, Colo.)
5 - Ashley Mason (Missouri State University, L, 5-8, 2, Granby, Mo.)
9 - Lauren Wicinski (Michigan State University, OH, 6-2, 2, Geneva, Ill.)
14 - Tara Dunn (University of Oklahoma, OH, 6-2, 3, Poth, Texas)
21 - Rachel Krabacher (University of Dayton, OH, 6-4, 1, Cincinnati, Ohio)
31 - Kaitlyn Early (Illinois State University, S, 5-9, 3, Wildwood, Mo.)
37 - Tenisha Matlock (Iowa State University, MB, 6-2, 2, North Platte, Neb.)
40 - Chaniel Nelson (University of North Carolina, OPP, 6-2, 3, Huntersville, N.C.)
42 - Tori Dixon
(University of Minnesota, OPP, 6-4, 2, Burnsville, Minn.)
43 - Meghan Mannari (LSU, L, 5-9, 1, Frisco, Texas)
44 - Samantha Cash (Pepperdine University, MB, 6-3, 3, San Diego, Calif.)
47 - Haley Cameron (University of Texas, MB, 6-3, 2, LaJolla, Calif.)
Coaches: Tonya Johnson (Georgia Tech), Jeff Stork (Cal State Northridge)
The team is a good bunch, and I'm exited to get to play with them more. We practiced in the morning with our teams, and got lunch right after. Following lunch, USA Gold and USA Blue volunteered at a local community center.
We volunteered at this particular community service center because it was right in the middle of their volleyball unit when they were learning how to play. We arrived at the community center, and found out that there were going to be over 80 inner city kids that are learning how to play, all in one gym on one court. It was very hectic at first, but once it got going, everything smoothed out. We introduced ourselves, had a Q&A session, and answered any questions that they may have had to begin with. We then taught them all of the skills and demo'd them all. I don't know how the coaches convinced me to demo hitting, since I hate talking and demo-ing things in front of big groups. But it worked well, and luckily, I didn't mess up and hit the ball under the net. After we ran the kids through some basic drills, we talked with them once again, and answered any more questions they had. Following the Q&A session we signed autographs and headed back to Ohio Dominican.
I did some more homework, and headed to practice. Our late practice was going well, until we heard thunder, and the lights completely turned off. It was scary, and I was freaking out. Turns out there was a huge storm going on outside the entire practice. There were a few emergency lights that didn't completely turn off, so we could see still. I don't know how the gym got its power back, but somehow it did. It just took about 15 minutes to have the lights back on. We passed time by playing games, and finished out practice.
We walked outside in the rain on our way to dinner, and you could really see the damage that the storm brought. There were big fallen trees and branches. There were also shingles of some kind, or the huge piece of metal covering the roof that got blown off a building. It was sitting in the middle of the courtyard area. Scary! Luckily we were at practice and completely clueless of what was going on outside. We were told that almost the entire state of Ohio was in a blackout. We ate dinner in the dark, and headed back to our power-less building. After being there for about 5 minutes, the lights finally came back on. The Internet has been down as well. I did a little homework, and headed to bed to rest up for tomorrow. GAME DAY! Go USA Gold!
June 28th, 2012
So far, my time in Columbus and training with this group has been awesome. My schedule is pretty similar everyday, until we get to playing on June 30th, when it will change. I wake up every morning around 7, get ready for the day, and head out with my roommates to get breakfast. After breakfast, we head directly for the gym. This morning, setters and liberos had to go in a half hour early to get some extra reps. Since my roommate Karissa happens to set, I headed there too to hangout before practice.
At our morning practice, after warming up, we split into positions and did positional work for most of practice. Since I'm training as an opposite/outside hitter with this group, I headed to the outside's court where we worked on every middle's favorite thing: defense and serve receive passing! We ran through some drills and station work before we split into groups to work on blocking. After blocking, we hit tempo sets off of the setters. Once positional work was completed, we played 6 on 6 drills and games to finish off our morning practice.
We got lunch directly after practice, which was awesome. The food is very good here. We then headed back to our place where we stay. I'm pretty sure it's a campus dorm hall, but I'm not positive because there aren't a lot of students on campus. I was also on laundry duty today in between our sessions! We were given only 2 practice shirts here, and since we have 2 practices a day, they go pretty quick. We gathered everyone's gross practice jerseys and did laundry, then worked on homework.
In the afternoon session, all we did was warmed up and played 6 vs. 6, which was a lot of fun. It was a wave drill that took up the entire practice. Every position had a specific order they needed to rotate in among 3 courts, both sides. This was to ensure that almost every person got to play with everyone once, and that everyone got a break at some point. Following practice, we were told that we would be split up into teams in the morning session tomorrow, which is very exciting. I can't wait to start working with my team so we can learn to work around one another.
We ate dinner, and then watched film of the US Women's National Team, and listened to a few of our coaches talk about their National Team and Olympic experience. It was all very exciting, especially since London is right around the corner. Go USA! Following film, I worked on homework and headed to bed for another long day tomorrow!
June 26th, 2012
Today was the official start date of the USA Volleyball A2 Program that I am going to be a part of for the next two weeks. About a month after attending the National Team Open Tryout at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last February, I found out I was one of 48 athletes from across the nation selected for this A2 Training Program. I tried out for, and will be training for the next two weeks as an opposite, while at Minnesota, I am usually a middle. Members selected for this program are athletes who have one or more years of collegiate eligibility left. They use the A2 Program in order to evaluate players for current and future National Team potential, very similar to a tryout.
All athletes arrived to Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio in the afternoon, and were given all of the USA Volleyball gear. From there, we were assigned our room number and roommates. I am rooming with Purdue University's Ariel Turner and Kierra Jones, and Stanford's Karissa Cook. We settled into our rooms, and hung out for a bit. After dinner, we went strait to a team meeting where we met the USA Volleyball Coaches and Support Staff from USA Volleyball and Ohio Dominican University. From there, we went right to practice. During practice, coaches put us in a variety drills that focused on ball control. After our ball control drills, we did a little bit of serve and pass. We finished off practice by competing in 4 vs. 4 wave drills, 5 vs. 5 wave drills, and 6 on 6.
Overall, it was a very filled first day. It was fun getting back in the gym with coaches and really focusing on getting better with the rest of the girls. Everyone did very well, and you can tell there is a lot of talent in the gym. I'm excited for what the next two weeks will bring. We have our next practice tomorrow morning at 8 A.M. sharp.