High-SchoolVolleyball: Jennifer Kazmierski

Cosy Burnett is a top 2013 volleyball recruit from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. She plays outside hitter and opposite for La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego. She has competed in the California State Finals and at Nationals for the past five years. She recently committed to play for BYU. In the latest installment of her blog, she gets top coaches to share their tips for high school tryouts.

La Costa Canyon volleyball
Cosy Burnett
High school season is finally here!

I love high school volleyball because I feel like I am playing for something bigger than myself. Representing your school is amazing; it’s all about school pride and having fun competing. You get to play with your classmates and together compete in front of a home crowd full of cheering “Noise Boyz!” Your friends can actually watch you play without having to drive two hours.

Of course, we have to conquer tryouts, which is the most stressful part of the experience.

I interviewed three high school volleyball coaches from some of the top programs in the country to get their advice on how to prepare for the tryouts. All three programs have competitive tryouts with many girls vying for limited spots.

Here’s what they had to say:

Pat McDougall, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.)


 
La Costa Canyon volleyball
Courtesy of Pat McDougallPat McDougall
What traits do you look for the most during tryouts?
We are looking for volleyball skills and physical talents. Height, speed and vertical jump are important for front-row players. Back-row players need to be quick and strong. In younger players we are interested in potential. In older players that potential needs to be realized. Attitude is very important. We want driven players who make their teammates better. It takes a combination of someone who plays volleyball because they love the sport and has the physical talent to excel. We're looking for players who respect authority and are easy to communicate with. We want girls who have the proper attitude to follow team rules and bring honor to the team and the school.

How do you decide between the last two girls for a team?
Attitude is generally the most important factor. The last girl picked is probably not a starter, so we need someone who will practice hard every day and morally support the team and be willing to help any way she can, even though she might not get much playing time.

What advice do you have for girls who want to stand out?
If you want to stand out at tryouts and you're not 6-foot-4 with a 30-inch jump, I suggest you hustle during every drill. Pay attention and be involved even if you're not the one being evaluated. Talk a lot during game speed drills and smile as much as you can. Girls who love to play are the most successful.

 

Jennifer Kazmierski, Lake Travis (Austin,Texas)


 
Lake Travis volleyball
Courtesy of Jennifer KazmierskiJennifer Kazmierski
How many girls typically show up to tryouts and how many spots/teams do you offer?
We typically get about 65-70 girls to show up for tryouts. We carry four teams with roughly 12 per team.

What are the main things you look for?
Skill, attitude and being coachable are all great things. I also look at versatility, how they work with others, competitiveness, effort and passion for the game. It’s hard to rate the intangibles, but they are so vital to a team and a program’s success.

When you are down to the last two girls for a team, what is usually the deciding factor?
Versatility -- can they play more than one position? Attitude and effort, and skill or potential skill.

What advice do you have for girls who want to stand out at tryouts?
Set yourself apart by giving great effort, listen and be coachable, hustle everywhere, and prepare ahead of time by being in shape and volleyball ready. Know the skills and characteristics needed for your position and be willing to play anywhere the coach and team may need you.

 

Brennan Dean, Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.)


 
Torrey Pines volleyball
Courtesy of Brennan DeanBrennan Dean
What are the main things you look for?
First, skill. We look for girls with the best skills and who can help a team win and earn points. Potential. If there is a girl who we believe we can train and can help the team throughout the season, we would want her. Also, attitude. We want girls who have good team chemistry, good morals and girls who other kids want to play with. Finally, good team players. Girls who think selflessly and focus on the team as a whole rather than only being concerned with themselves.

How do you choose between the last two girls?
Statistics. Numbers tell a story, and we may look at outside hitter efficiency, or with liberos serve receive. Attitude. Positive teammates are wanted teammates.

What advice do you have for girls who want to stand out at tryouts?
Don't come to tryouts rusty. Make sure to get in the gym with private coaching or camps before tryouts. That way you can be confident with all of your ball skills. You want to be noticed in the first day because by the time the last day of tryouts comes it might be too late. Wear something noticeable. Big headband. Bright shirt. It just helps to set you apart. Make sure to work hard and not only be friendly to the other girls but the coaches as well. Hellos and thank yous go a long way.

Good luck to everyone trying out for high school season!

Read the previous installment of Cosy's blog – on the merits of college camps – here.
By Walter Villa

Texas volleyballLoneStarVolleyball.comLake Travis (Austin, Texas) enters the semifinals of the state tournament without losing a single set this season. "Not losing a set is a huge goal for us," setter Katy Beals says.

Gwen Egbert, the coach of Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), said she never talks to her team about perfect records “because you’re never going to be perfect.”

Don’t tell that to Lake Travis (Austin, Texas).

One week after Papio South -- No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings -- won a state title and finished undefeated, No. 2 Lake Travis will try to accomplish the same feat, with a twist.

Lake Travis (48-0) is trying to reach the finish line without losing a single set all season.

On Thursday, Lake Travis plays Foster (Richmond) in a Texas Class 4A state semifinal. If it beats Foster (38-10), Lake Travis would either face No. 33 Randall (Amarillo) or Pearce (Richardson) in Saturday’s state final.

Besides Lake Travis, three other teams in the FAB 50 are undefeated, but none have gone unscathed in terms of sets. Papio South lost a total of four sets; No. 12 Chaparral (Parker, Colo.) won a state title last weekend, finishing 31-0 with six lost sets; and No. 25 Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.) also won a state title on Saturday with a 33-0 record and three lost sets.

Lake Travis coach Jennifer Kazmierski, like Egbert, doesn’t talk to her team about perfection. But she does admit “it’d be really sweet.”

“As a coach, my aim is just to win the match,” Kazmierski said. “I don’t want to put extra pressure on the girls by talking about not losing a set. But I know for them, as the season has gone on, not losing a set has become their goal.”

Certainly, there have been some close calls, including a regular-season game against Cedar Park in which Lake Travis was down 19-17 before winning 25-23.

But the most dire situation came in the regional quarterfinals against Canyon (New Braunfels). Canyon led 16-7 in the second set before Lake Travis rallied to win 25-22.

“I was pleasantly surprised when we came back to win that set,” Lake Travis setter Katy Beals said.

Kazmierski said it helps that her team is rock-solid mentally.

“They don’t put pressure on themselves, and they don’t get flustered, even when they’re trailing,” she said. “It’s stunning to see.”

It’s probably fair to say that all teams feel pressure, especially when they are closing in on their championship goal.

Papio South players admitted as much last week before they won their second straight state title and extended their winning streak to 82 matches.

“Everyone has really high expectations for us,” Papio South libero Lauren Poulicek said. “Struggling through school and volleyball at the same time, it’s really hard to keep focused on what we want to do.”

Papio South outside hitter Amber Rolfzen and setter Kelly Hunter said the key was how the team reacted to the pressure they faced.

“I think we perform best under pressure,” Rolfzen said. “That’s why we always come out on top.”

Added Hunter: “I think we like the target on our backs. We knew everyone was going to give us their best shot. There was a lot of pressure, but I think it made us better and made us work harder.”

Ron Kordes, coach of No. 3 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), watched his team win a state title this season, finishing 43-1. He said his team played much better after an early-season loss, a defeat that took the pressure off and allowed the players to play free.

Lake Travis, though, has no such luxury. A loss now and the season would be over.

Just ask No. 5 St. Ursula Academy (Toldeo, Ohio), which had an undefeated season until this past Saturday, when the Arrows lost to Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati, Ohio) in a state final.

Perhaps the Arrows, who had won 48 matches in a row entering the final, felt the pressure.

“When you start thinking of pressure,” former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once said, “it’s because you've started to think of failure.”

Then again, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had a different view on the same issue: “A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.”

Now it’s up to Lake Travis to decide how they will be remembered this season. Will an opponent end their dreams of perfection? Or will the pressure they face create a jewel of a finish?

“Not losing a set is a huge goal for us,” Beals said. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t very serious about (the goal). But after (the) Pearland (tournament), it became more real. We beat a lot of great teams there.”

Asked if she felt pressure to finish the season on a high note, Beals flipped the script.

“I think if I were going up against a team that hadn’t lost a set, I’d be nervous,” she said. “For us, it’s just about having fun.”

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