INCOMING FRESHMAN THRIVES AGAINST TOP JUNIOR COMPETITION
RICHMOND, Va. – Ciara Brown hasn't played a single match for the VCU Volleyball team. She hasn't logged a single set or taken a turn in even one rotation. But that doesn't mean the freshman setter hasn't been busy.
The highly-touted recruit from Fort Myers, Fla. recently competed with USA Volleyball's A2 squad against some of the best junior volleyball players in the world at the High Performance International Tournament in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. The USA Volleyball A2 teams are just below the USA Junior National Team and can be used to feed the national squad.
Her A2 "White" team acquitted itself nicely in the 18-team Women's Junior pool, the highest level competing at the event. With Brown garnering more than half the setter's reps, her A2 White squad placed fourth in a division that included all-star junior squads from around the globe, as well as the best competition available in the United States.
"International play is very different," Said the 5-foot-10 Brown. "Instead of in college, where you have 12 substitutions, you only have six. So, a lot of your players have to be more versatile and play all the way around."
It was actually Brown's second straight year at this tournament. Last year, she played on the A2 "Red" team that won the Women's Junior pool, and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.
In addition to five days of game competition, Brown and her USA Volleyball teammates spent five days training in Wisconsin Dells prior to the tournament. It's an experience that is hard to duplicate.
"It's definitely a different level when you go there," Brown said. "Before, you're the best player on your club team or you're used to being in charge. When you get to USA Volleyball, you're there for them. You have strict rules. It's really strict, but it's really good at the same time. It's super competitive. Every session, we were statted on everything we did. If we were falling behind, they would let you know."
The USA Volleyball system seems to be paying dividends for the future VCU Ram. After an outstanding senior season at Bishop Verot High School in 2009, Brown was named All-America Honorable Mention by the AVCA.
Despite her experience with the USA Volleyball program and multiple awards, Brown isn't taking anything for granted as she eyes her rookie campaign at VCU.
"I hope [the experience helps]," Brown said. "I still know that coming here I have to work really hard to earn time to play. College is a different level, and VCU's Volleyball team is really competitive too."
In the meantime, Brown hopes to remain a part of the ultra-competitive USA Volleyball pipeline. Although players have to endure tryouts each year against huge fields, Brown loves the chase.
"I'm a super competitive person," Brown said. "I would always love to play beyond college. I know it would be really hard to stay in that pipeline, but if I had the opportunity though, I'd definitely want to play with the Olympic team, overseas, anything."