Four Selected To U.S. Collegiate National Team
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Alexis Austin, Nicole Edelman, Cierra Simpson and Gabby Simpson have been selected to participate in the U.S. Collegiate National Team (CNT) program that will train and compete from June 21-29 in New Orleans, La.
The Buffs placed an impressive four athletes on the team of 36 athletes, more than any other school in the country. After the training portion of the program, the athletes will be divided into three equal teams which will compete in a round-robin event June 26-29.
"To have four of the 36 players named to the CNT speaks volumes to the individual determination and abilities of these young women, but also to the competitive, focused, determined culture that is an essential aspect of the Colorado volleyball program now," head coach Liz Kritza said. "They will represent the Buffs well as they train and compete this summer and beyond within the USA NT pipeline."
The CNT also serves as a second tryout for the USA National Team. A couple of years ago, former Buff Taylor Simpson was selected to the same team and was able to make her way into the national training team.
"We are very proud of all four of our players for the effort that goes into performing at a level that results in the honor of donning a USA jersey," Kritza said. "We are confident in their abilities and know this experience will be a positive, challenging, transformational one for each of these players.
"Our program goals for these players, as part of chasing down a championship, align well with the CNT program. We want them to consistently train and play volleyball at the highest levels, take an intellectual approach to thoroughly understanding the game of volleyball, and learn how to best care for their bodies as athletes to have healthy, long, enjoyable playing careers."
Austin, a junior outside hitter, most recently competed on the 2013 BIP/USA Development Team that competed in China. During the summer of 2011, Austin was selected to compete for the U.S. Girls' Youth National Team that competed at the FIVB Girls' Youth World Championships in Turkey. In 2010, she was named to the U.S. Girls' Youth National A2 Team and participated in the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships. This past season, Austin was named to the All-Pac-12 team after recording 303 kills and posted 63 blocks.
"I am very honored to be able to represent the USA and the University of Colorado in the CNT program," Austin said. "Being able to play with three other of my teammates and other great athletes around the country is definitely a great opportunity. I can't hardly wait to compete this summer."
Edelman, a setter, was the co-captain of the USA Junior National Team in 2013 and helped lead the team at the FIVB World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. She was also on the 2011 U.S. Girls' Youth National Team and the 2010 U.S. Girls' Youth National A2 Team. During her junior season, Edelman handed out 844 assists during the season and currently ranks seventh in CU history with 3,049 assists.
"I am very excited to represent and play for the USA with some of the best volleyball players and athletes in the country," Edelman said. "It is a great opportunity and I feel very fortunate to have been selected."
Cierra Simpson had a record-breaking season for CU in 2014 with 519 digs. She broke a 24-year-old record (490) and was named CU's Defensive MVP for her performance. During the season, she recorded 20 or more digs in 11 matches.
"I am thrilled and very grateful to have been selected for the USA CNT that will be competing this summer," Cierra Simpson said. "I am very excited to get to play with and against some of the nation's best talent while wearing USA on my jersey. I look to take full advantage of the opportunity to compete at a high level this summer, learn a lot, and bring the skills and experiences back with me to utilize this upcoming fall season."
Gabby Simpson was a member of the USA Youth National Training Team from 2012-13. In her first season with the Buffs, she played as a setter and a right side attacker. She recorded 639 assists and added 184 kills, 234 digs and 55 blocks. In a five-set win against Washington State (11/16), she became the first Buff since 2002 to record a triple-double with 10 kills, 10 assists and 15 digs. She was also named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman honorable mention team.
"I am very honored that I have the opportunity to represent the USA in June with the Collegiate National Team," Gabby Simpson said. "This is very exciting because it is another step in the path that can lead to my ultimate goal of playing in the Olympics one day."
Over the last several years, the Buffs have made it a habit by placing athletes in the USAV program as well as sending many overseas to compete professionally after their eligibility has expired. Most notably, Taylor Simpson has had several training stints in Anaheim, Calif. with the U.S. Women's National Team and is currently training there now ahead of the spring training block. In 2013, she was selected to the USA Senior Indoor and Beach A2 teams (which are now the CNT). This past fall, Simpson broke numerous records for the Buffs, which included 591 kills. She also recorded 20 or more kills in 10 matches during the season. Taylor Simpson was named CU's first ever AVCA First Team All-American and was selected to the AVCA All-Pacific South Region and All-Pac-12 teams. The Colorado Sports Hall of Fame named her the 2014 Female College Athlete of the Year and she was also named CU's Offensive MVP.
"In recent years, we have had a number of players in our gym who have designs on professional playing careers and National Team and Olympic aspirations, it has become part of our culture," Kritza said. "When talented, ambitious young players pursue such lofty goals, they need to be challenged and prepared properly to take continual steps towards their goals. There is a direct connection between what has happened in our program and these selections for some very deserving players. "
This last season, CU had six athletes playing professionally: Kerra Schroeder (France), Elysse Richardson (Czech Republic), Emily Alexis (Greece), Alyssa Valentine (Switzerland), Nikki Lindow (Germany) and Taylor Simpson (Puerto Rico). Lindow's team in Stuttgart, Germany won its league championship and will be playing for the cup final in the next few weeks.
The CU staff also has ties with USAV. Associate head coach JT Wenger has worked with the USA High Performance program and served as an assistant coach for the 2011 USA Men's World University Games and the 2009 USA Men's Junior National Team. The former UCLA player and assistant coach played and coached alongside several U.S. Men's National Team members. Assistant coach Ryal Jagd played in the USAV pipeline, which is a great asset to CU's athletes as they navigate such high level competition.
"My coaches work daily to help our players understand where they can improve and ensure that their progress is a continual process," Kritza said. "We want our players to have a variety of experiences that help them to grow as volleyball players and as competitive athletes."