By Todd Dagenais
They say football is a game of inches. One would think in a world of 6'3" women jumping over 10 feet and hitting in excess of 55 mph that volleyball would be a game of feet or maybe even meters. One missed serve here, one attack out of bounds by an inch, on close call by an official. That was the difference between playing for gold and playing for 7th out of 18. ONE ball....
The USA Junior National A-2 team picked up right where they left off after suffering back-to-back heart breaking five-set losses late in the initial pool play. Instead of folding in disappointment and despair the team stormed back to win four-straight matches 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, and 3-0 finished the USA High Performance Championships 7th overall.
The team learned that you could potentially train four long years and one mistake, mental error, or bad break could potentially take it all away. This was a great Olympic lesson as they prepare themselves to play on the biggest sports stage in the next 8-12 years. The lesson was a poignant one, and it will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Fortunately for them, the heartbreak was suffered in the relatively benign environment of a youth competition, not the unforgiving environment of the global stage. Every single point matters. That's the new era of international volleyball.
The USA Junior National Team took the Gold Medal. The Dominican Republic took the silver. Yes, the same Dominican Republic that we dominated on Day 2. However the timing of the two loses crushed our chances to play those teams again for "hardware".
Most volleyball players go through their entire career never learning the value of one point. This group will never forget the value of it.
I thoroughly enjoyed my 10 days with these wonderful athletes. They will have a huge impact on our sport in the future. They were so classy, well behaved, and had so much respect for their opportunity to move up the pipeline depth chart.
For me, I use these nine matches like an NFL coach uses the exhibition season. I'm able to knock off the rust of an offseason and start preparing myself to be the best I can be for the UCF Knights in just a week or so. I'm ready.. I hope YOU are ready too.
Let's go Knight fans... Let's begin the process of FINISHing what we started four years ago!!!!