Volleyball sends four players to U.S. tryouts

Theis selects players based on policy to send to Colorado Springs

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Volleyball sends four players to U.S. tryouts

Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

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Marquette had to reserve a few extra seats on the plane to Colorado for the USA Volleyball tryouts this year. Head coach Ryan Theis sent four players – outside hitters Taylor Louis and Amanda Green and middle hitters Meghan Niemann and Jenna Rosenthal – to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to compete for a spot on the team two weeks ago.

Theis has a policy when it comes to selecting which of his players will try out for the prestigious program. If you were accepted to USA Volleyball before, are coming off a redshirt freshman year or were named first team all-conference, you get to try out again.

This policy is especially relevant for redshirt players like Green, a highly-regarded recruit out of Skokie, Illinois. Marquette desperately needs her to be a strong offensive complement to Louis, her high school teammate. No Golden Eagle besides Louis averaged more than 2.2 kills per set last season.

“Amanda’s having a really nice offseason,” Theis said. “We hope that she blossoms into a terrific player this offseason and helps us immensely in the fall.”

Golden Eagle fans hope that Green’s post-redshirt offseason will follow a path similar to Rosenthal’s. After taking her freshman season off, Rosenthal tried out for and made the 2015 USA Volleyball roster. She said in September that she gained a lot from the program, and her play over the course of the season backed that up. Rosenthal averaged well over a block per game to go with a hitting percentage over .300. Now, Theis hopes she will take yet another leap.

“Playing against high-level players every day for a span of 10 days and then a tournament of four days and that kind of thing, it’s just more experience,” Theis said. “That’s what she needs. She didn’t start playing high-level volleyball until she was 16 or 17 years old.”

Louis went with Rosenthal to the tryouts last year, but she did not make it past the final cut. It is hard to imagine the same thing happening again after her performance this season. Louis cemented herself as one of the best offensive players in the country, blasting her way to nearly five kills per set and Marquette’s single-season kills record. She may have had even more of an impact, but shaky defense and serving often led to her being substituted out of the game whenever she rotated into the back row.

“She still has a ways to go before she’s a high-positive impact for us in the back row. Right now, she’s a hugely positive front row influence,” Theis explained. “Say she scores four points; three kills, one block. When she goes across the back row, if she misses a serve, gets aced and mishandles a dig, she’s from positive four to positive one.”

Then, there is Niemann, who represents both great promise and an uncomfortable reality for Marquette volleyball. Niemann is one of six players that will be in their final year of eligibility next season. That kind of veteran leadership will almost certainly translate to a more composed, consistent team. It also means that Marquette will lose nearly half of its team to graduation in 15 months. For Niemann and her fellow seniors, this offseason will be their last chance in college to add new skills to their repertoire. Niemann says she plans to take advantage of it.

“I am hoping to improve my ability to read setters and react faster to which way the ball is being set. I am also looking to improve my hitting efficiency and kill numbers at different spots along the net.”

All four players will find out whether or not they have been selected in early March, a few weeks ahead of the public announcement at the end of March. The USA program will begin June 24 and culminate July 3 with the final match of a round-robin tournament.

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