With a record-setting 2014 season in the rearview mirror, the Ole Miss volleyball team is already preparing for 2015, and a couple of Rebels will get to test their skills with many of the nation’s top players at the USA Volleyball Tryouts (#USAVTryout) this weekend at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Rising senior Nakeyta Clair and upcoming junior Melanie Crow will be among 232 athletes from 90 colleges and universities participating in the tryouts this weekend. The stakes are high, as the women compete for spots on the U.S. Women’s National Team and/or U.S. Collegiate National Teams program.
“They’re going to go and compete with some of the best collegiate players in the nation,” head coach Steven McRoberts said. “When I had a talk with Nakeyta last week, it was about embracing the challenge and having fun with it, learning why these players are successful but not being afraid to compete, and just using it as a great experience.”
Clair had a record-setting year for the Rebels in 2014, earning AVCA Honorable Mention All-America, AVCA All-South Region and All-SEC honors. She set the single season record for kills with 366.
This will mark Clair’s third trip to the tryouts. Her first trip netted a spot on the junior team, but last year, she didn’t make a team. Riding high with confidence after her successful junior campaign, Clair is excited to step on the court in competition again.
“It’s very intense, because you are in a different environment with a lot of people you don’t know,” said Clair on competing at the tryouts. “It’s very challenging. This year I am definitely going in with more confidence. The previous years I was unsure of going and what to expect. This year I know with the right attitude, I’ll be just fine.”
Crow, who will be making her second appearance at the tryouts, had a pretty good sophomore campaign. She set the school record for aces in a season (42) and finished second for kills in a season with 352.
“Last year it was an eye opener,” Crow said. “Going into it as a freshman you don’t know what you’re walking into and you get there and you see these kids from Penn State who have played in the National Championship. You’re playing right next to people that are playing for teams in the top five and people who are a lot taller than you. It’s a lot of different styles of volleyball. You have to a find a way to distinguish yourself and make yourself known.”
“Both Nakeyta and Mel had such good seasons,” McRoberts added. “I think they’re both very confident in their volleyball right now. This is a great time for them to go and put themselves up against the best. For us, it’s something that we can’t simulate in practice for them, and they can bring back some experiences to the team to make us better for the fall.”
Both Clair and Crow helped lead Ole Miss to the best start in school history (14-0), the most wins since the 2007 season (22-10) and tied for the most home wins in program history (12-4). The Rebels also posted a school-record team hitting percentage in a season (.254).
Three-time Olympic gold medalist and U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer Karch Kiraly and the U.S. Women’s National Team staff will lead the tryout process, which can be viewed with live streaming beginning at 3 p.m. CT Friday. Get involved in the conversation by using the hashtag #USAVTryout to keep up with the action.
The tryout will involve four sessions with three waves per session. Friday’s first session goes from 3-9 p.m. CT with Queen of the Court competitions, while Saturday’s sessions begin at 9 a.m. (focus on serve/receive and individual work) and 3 p.m. (middle-centered and out-of-system focus). The tryout concludes on Sunday at 9 a.m. with tournament style play, along with 16-18 athletes selected by the staff to participate in a “USA” training session.
Selected athletes will be notified by early March and USA Volleyball will announce the selections by the end of March once all roster spots are confirmed.