by Kyle Koso
Basking in the sun in crisp Kansas City may not have been an option when the TC NIT volleyball event took flight, but there’s nothing like College Camp Friday to warm the spirits of those gearing up for arguably the nation’s most elite tournament setting.
While pool play begins Saturday, there’s no shortage of interest in the roster of camps, 12 of them in 2022, where many of the nation’s most accomplished D-I and D-II programs put hundreds of student-athletes in the middle of drills at sincere skill-building tempo. That mix of an encouraging tone and a no-joking-around mindset is the recipe for a great kickoff moment, with players eager to add to their athletic tool kit.
“I’ve always been a power hitter, and now I’m focusing a lot more on my creativity on the court and how I can play the best shot to get the point,” said Evan Glade, 17, an Omaha native and hammering outside hitter who plays for Nebraska Juniors and the Millard West High School squad, which reached the state finals in 2021. “But, at the same time, increasing the power. I play year-round, sand, club, high school … it’s just a love and dedication for the sport. I’ve played since first grade, and it’s been with coaches and teammates I love, with a lot of support from family.
“I definitely got what I wanted today. I talked with a lot of coaches whose camps I’ve been to, so to see them again for the first time or maybe the second time again was really good. I’m never really fulfilled as (an athlete), I’m proud of myself for what I came here to do, I will come back from 5-7 tonight (for the Unsigned Player Workout) ... it’s a lot of volleyball, but there’s a lot to learn and a lot to grow.”
Another player eager to have a college-level book thrown at them was Rya Fingerlin, 15, of Parker, Colo., who suits up for Lutheran High School and the Momentum club program. Taking part in the libero/DS portion of her clinic, Fingerlin showed quick hands and calm demeanor even when trying to handle difficult, diving serves.
“I just love it. I feel like I want to get better every time out, and get the most difficult hits, I think it’s really fun,” she said. “This is my first (college camp), so I wanted to get some reps and get input from coaches. There are a lot of different styles to watch and learn from, and I also like the feedback, which you may not usually get.”
College coaches from every time zone ran drills at College Camp Friday, from Pepperdine to West Virginia, Texas to Marquette, Duke to Oregon State, and many points in between. Enjoying her time in the swirl of action was Arizona State head coach Sanja Tomasevic, a native of Serbia who has always tried to import her understanding that volleyball is an easy sport to love.
“The passion for the game … where I come from, we don’t have people who get burned out. We stick with what we love, and if you end up not liking it, you move to something else. Nobody makes us do things – whatever you do in life, it’s important to have that passion,” she said. “For me, I love coaching, and getting into the gym is the best part of my day. You put the time in as an athlete, there will be a lot of reward in that.
“This is a fun event – kids sign up for it, and when they do that, you know they are eager about it. When someone wants to give their best and get after it, learning for an hour and a half, I’m all in. Let’s get better.”