By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Lobo Cassie House, the experience playing on the U.S. Collegiate National Team was a first-time deal. For Lobo Chantale Riddle, it was more “been-there, done-that,” since it was her third time in the program. However, both Lobos had a similar goal:
To get better and bring back lessons learned to pass on to their University of New Mexico teammates.
“I was talking to one of my teammates today and we were discussing how being here makes us want to work incredibly hard when we go home to bring the USA playing style to our gyms,” said House. “I know that I can't wait to start training hard back home to improve my skill set and all the girls around me.
“I'm taking the intensity of the game home. I've learned from Internationally-recognized coaches this week and I hope to take what they've taught me back to our gym.”
House and Riddle were in Minneapolis for ten days training with 34 other collegiates on the National Team. This program is considered a second tryout for the U.S. Women’s National Team. The Lobos’ days mostly consisted of training, games and homework for those in summer school. The team stayed in dorms on the University of Minnesota campus.
“The training was really hardcore the first couple days,” said Riddle. “Everyone was very competitive and fighting hard to make a good first impression to the coaches. As the days went on, we learned key points on how to make USA volleyball better than the world.
“Every day we did something different to help us improve our play. I see that Cassie and I can compete at a high level of volleyball and can bring the competitiveness and work ethic of the girls here back to our summer training at UNM.”
Obviously, one point of playing with the National Team is to use the combined talent at the camp to push you to a higher level. You practice and play with the best and you tend to get better. Another benefit is bringing that learning experience back to your college team and transferring it to your teammates.
“Playing with other girls was an amazing experience,” said House. “You get to learn how other programs around the country are running their programs. I've learned a lot from the other girls from how they play and the way they see the game.”
Said Riddle: “Everyone in the gym has a goal to become a better player every day. This training really helps with that. Every year the competition gets better and I felt this year I was really prepared and ready to get better.”
Riddle and House did not play on the same team. Lobo Coach Jeff Nelson even flew up to Minneapolis to watch some of the competition. Riddle’s immediate goal is to use the camp to help her Lobo team during the 2014 season. But she also has some long-team goals.
“I went in planning to compete at a high level and hopefully get some recognition so I can play on one of the national teams when I graduate in December,” said Riddle. “I knew I had to have a winning mentality. I had to show my strengths and show the ability to improve my weaknesses.”
The collegiate usually began their day at 7:30 a.m., with breakfast and then went into a three-hour training session. After the lunch break, there was time for homework or maybe a nap before an afternoon training session. The teams played practice games after dinner leading up to pool play and a tournament this past Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (today).
“The whole week of training and the weekend of competing were intense,” said House. “There was lots of good volleyball everywhere and everyone was playing at a high level. It made the entire weekend and experience so much more fun.
With so much volleyball on the agenda, there wasn’t a lot of free time at the camp. But there was some.
“There were times when we were in the dorms that we walked to Jamba Juice and Starbucks to get smoothies and coffee; to just explore the campus and get out of the dorms,” said Riddle. “We also got to go to the Mall of America and watch volleyball players we knew playing at the convention center.”
Said House: “In the free time we did have, I'd been doing homework for my summer classes.”
As mentioned, this summer’s session was Riddle’s third time on the National Team. House has some insightful first-year impressions:
“The most exciting thing is seeing all the girls who have the same dream and same goals as I do,” she said. “We are all here because we want to play at the highest level. To be around girls who are passionate and love the game as much as I do is incredible. It makes me love the game so much more.
“I knew it was going to be one of the more beneficial experiences I've ever been a part of, but it certainly exceed anything I thought it would be.”