Norwood, Welch going to nationals
For Casey Welch, this summer will mark her third trip to the USA Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships. For Dayna Norwood it will be her first.
Regardless of experience, the Lansing High juniors picked the right summer to qualify this time. After all, they will be seniors in the fall and both have aspirations of playing collegiate volleyball so a trip to nationals this summer is of utmost importance for exposure to college coaches.
"Oh yeah, it's big," Norwood said of the college implications that the national tournament has. "We've already gotten a lot of letters and stuff from colleges."
Norwood hopes to head south, maybe to a school in Texas, for college. Meanwhile, Welch is eyeing numerous midwestern schools and continues to chase her dream of playing at Kansas State.
A strong showing at nationals could help make both players' dreams a reality.
The tournament will take place July 2-6 at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. Welch and Norwood's squad, the KC Jazz-17, earned their tournament berth by winning the regional championship two weeks ago at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Mo. It was their last chance to qualify after coming up just short at three different national qualifiers in Denver, Atlanta and Austin, Tex.
Each of their previous qualifier losses came to Summit, a club from Salt Lake City. Their match in Denver came in the semifinals. A trip to the finals would have guaranteed an automatic berth.
"Their average height is 6-3," Welch said of Summit. "Their shortest player is 5-8 or 5-9 so we had a hard time getting around their blocks and playing around the net. It was rough. They were massive."
The Jazz ultimately finished fourth in Denver before placing fifth at Atlanta and ninth in Austin. All three of those tournaments had more than 100 teams competing.
The field at St. Joe was smaller and Summit was not there. With its nemesis out of the way, KC Jazz thrashed through the tournament field and earned its bid to the Big Dance.
"It's awesome," said Welch, who previously played at nationals in 2002 and 2003 with a different club team. "I'm so glad we made it this year. This team is just so much fun to play with, so I'm just glad we get to keep going."
Norwood agreed. She said she's excited to finally get to experience a national tournament and she looks forward to testing her skills against the best players in the country.
"I've never been to nationals before and I've been playing club ball for eight years now, so it means a lot," she said. "I've had the same team for a long time and we're real excited about going."
The KC Jazz will pass the time between now and July by practicing and playing scrimmages against other Kansas City-area teams that qualified for nationals, too.