Three current and former Yale volleyball players packed their bags for Colorado Springs, Colorado, last weekend to participate in the 2017 United States women’s national team open tryouts.
From March 3–5, setter Franny Arnautou ’20, outside hitter Cat Dailey ’10 and libero Kate Swanson ’19 competed at the U.S. Olympic Training Center alongside 238 college and high school athletes from across the country in pursuit of a spot on the U.S. women’s national team and collegiate national team. The rosters will be announced by the end of March, giving team members time to prepare for competition in Thailand and Europe this spring and summer. Though making the team will prove exceedingly difficult, the players nonetheless gained valuable experience taking the court alongside some of the top players in the country.
“It was a great experience to play with girls from different programs and different campuses,” Swanson said. “The competition was very fast-paced. Every single person didn’t want to see the ball dropped, so there was very high energy.”
The three-day event in the Centennial State featured four sessions of various drills and competition. The Saturday sessions were focused on various aspects of individual technique, while the final session on Sunday morning featured tournament-style play. The U.S. women’s national team head coach Karch Kiraly directed the tryouts, and, according to Swanson, opened the event by reminding players that the experience of the weekend, not the ultimate selection, was most meaningful.
Nevertheless, the tryouts represented the highest level of American volleyball, as the women’s national team competes in the International Volleyball Federation world championships and the Olympic Games, among other international tournaments. The collegiate and junior national teams also participate in competitions against international competitors.
The open tryouts have previously uncovered star players such as Pepperdine University’s Kim Hill, who went from a 2013 participant to the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 International Volleyball Federation world championship.
“Every time you can play at a high level against the best of the best, you learn a little bit,” Yale head coach Erin Appleman said. “The intensity [Arnautou and Swanson] will bring back helps them individually, but they can also bring that intensity to their team.”
Swanson, who ranked fourth in the Ivy League with 379 digs last season and earned second-team All-Ivy honors, tried out for the college program. Born in 1998, Arnautou was eligible to make both the college and junior national teams. The freshman setter is not new to the national circuit, having played for high-performance teams in the past. The San Francisco native competed in all but one of Yale’s 24 matches last year, posting a season-high 49 assists against Harvard on Nov. 11 en route to leading the Bulldogs with 7.30 assists per set.
Dailey has long since left the court at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, having graduated in 2010. After transferring from the University of California, Berkeley before her junior campaign, Dailey dominated the Ivy League volleyball scene, earning Player of the Year honors in 2008 as the Bulldogs secured their first Ancient Eight title since 2004. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in business management at Durham University in Durham, England.
“I love doing these [national team events],” Arnautou said. “Honestly, when you’re getting competitive players together, it’s the fastest, highest level of competition you could hope for. It makes you so much better because you automatically step up your own play.”
The U.S. women’s national volleyball team won their first world championship title in 2014, and is looking to defend it in 2018 in Japan.